'Chocolate will help us smile' - Belgians enjoy Easter treats despite lockdown
Toni Waterman in Brussels

Belgium is known as the chocolate capital of the world. Home to famous brands like Godiva and Leonidas, the country's chocolatiers have been honing their craft for more than a century. Easter is traditionally a time for them to showcase their skills, and this year, some are embracing the unprecedented times we live in.

Belgian-based British cake maker Michael Lewis-Anderson has created a 65-pound (25kg) chocolate and cake display recreating the tortoise and hare fable, with a twist.

"The rabbit is running through the field of the Easter eggs, which are like the coronavirus, and it's running away from it," said Lewis-Anderson, as he took over the colorful display. "Yet, the tortoise has won the race because she or he took heed of how it should be: he stayed at home."

A reminder that slow and steady, can win the race.

Easter is normally one of the largest chocolate consuming holidays of the year. Tens of billions of dollars are spent globally on everything from life-sized solid easter bunnies, to bite-sized truffles. A four week lockdown in Belgium, has left chocolatiers going to extraordinary lengths to ensure their delicacies remain part of Easter tradition.

Award-winning chocolatier Jérôme Grimonpon only allows one person to enter his shop at a time. And staff disinfect in between clients.

"This year, I decided to make a collection about balloons: something very festive, very childish, very colourful," said Grimonpon. "On whether coronavirus was an influence, I didn't want to play the coronavirus card. It's already depressing enough the way it is."

Brussels chocolate-maker Laurent Gerbaud shows off his wares. /AFP

Brussels chocolate-maker Laurent Gerbaud shows off his wares. /AFP

It's a sentiment shared by his customers, who say chocolate offers a sweet distraction from a life altering pandemic

"With Easter coming and people spending Easter at home, it's going to be a little weird this year. Chocolate will help us smile - a little more than usual," said chocolate lover Frederico Aeck.

Fellow shopper and retired nutritionist Christine Berger agreed.

"I'd rather there was no coronavirus but it always makes me happy to let the chocolate melt and to feel the different aromas in my mouth with a good little coffee on the side," she said through a face mask.

It's long been proven that chocolate can reduce stress. Given the circumstances, a little over indulgence this Easter, may be exactly what the Easter bunny ordered.