I love chocolate. Milk. Dark. White. Hot, cold, melted, stirred, mixed, non-GMO, organic or infused with orange essence! I love it all. This to the detriment of my hips, and to the disgrace of my healthy optioned hubby. So with the arrival and passage of Easter this past weekend, the bedeviled stuff has arrived. Now don’t get me wrong… I believe Easter should be celebrated with its true meaning… the resurrection of Christ and all the holiness and grace of His sacrifice for us. But at our house, we indulge in the confections too. According to my limited research, the egg (having been the pagan sign of fertility and new life) became associated with Easter somewhere between the 15th and 19th centuries.
Most likely the Germans and/or the French were the first ones to create a hollowed out chocolate egg. Then they filled it with sweets and distributed it among all the unsuspecting, innocent children. The children!(Personally, I think the Belgians make the best chocolate… but… whatever). Our taste buds have been hooked ever since. Currently, Cadbury World in Birmingham produces 1.5 million creme filled eggs a day. Oh my heart be still!
So, this got me thinking… why? Why did I once buy a whole Costco-sized carton of Easter-creme eggs and store them for when I am having “one-of-those-days”? Why do we love the melty stuff and drink in the “food of the gods” as our comfort cuppa? Turns out chocolate is made up of some 380 chemical compounds that affect our brain chemistry. The chemical substances in chocolate cause the release of neurotransmitters in the brain that signal us to feel — get this — “happy”. A lucrative word.
Bear with me as my science mind takes over for a second and we research those chemicals for a bit. Tryptophan. It releases serotonin… a commonly known “anti-depressant” making ya feel, well, no longer depressed. Phenylethylamine. An amphetamine releaser creating that excited, pleasurable high. Theobromine. Derived from the Greek word, “theobroma” meaning food of the gods. A stimulant. Anandamide. Another “pleasure” producing chemical receptor named after the ancient Sanskrit word for bliss, joy or happiness. No wonder chocolate bars are sold in drug stores! Powerful stuff, people.
Leaving aside the science for a moment, let’s go back to that happy thing. For most of us… women especially… chocolate is a good, happy thing. If it were the only thing that kept us going, though, Cadbury would be manufacturing a heck of a lot more than 1.5 million creme eggs a day. Recently, my world has been bombarded with sadness. We lost my beloved mother-in-law a few weeks ago. A friend recently lost her husband in a quick and unrelenting battle with cancer. I sobbed big, snotty sobs on my last day of work just last Monday. The world is filled with UNHAPPY. Even in biblical times, we see examples of folks who have had to deal with their own sadness and feelings of injustice. Psalm 10 outlines David’s struggle to make sense of his own unhappy. Why does it seem that everyone around us prospers while we are stuck struggling to keep our heads above water? David concludes that God is still the master overseer. A few chapters later, in Psalm 30, David dedicates the temple to God, recognizing that Christ is the true source of happiness. Sorry, chocolate.
I’m not sure where you are on the happiness scale right now. If you are like me, and are seeing some unhappy things in the world around you, be encouraged, my friend, to indulge a little. Not only in that all that rich goodness of leftover Easter goodies (yes… that is permission to eat that whole bag of m&m’s), but be sure to share it with a friend. One who points you in the direction of the true overseer of the “unhappy” and turns your sorrow into dancing. There should never be leftover chocolate eggs in the house. Enrich the children in your life with yet, another Easter egg hunt. Who says it should stop with only one long weekend? Encourage one another. Connect. Turn those neurotransmitters on high with a cuppa melty, rich, heartfelt conversation. Creamy hot cocoa optional.