No matter how much we hammer the religious significance of Easter into our children’s little heads, their minds default to one thing this time of year: the candy.
Sure, they put on flouncy dresses and stiff ties, kneel angelically in prayer, and pose for pictures on the church steps. But secretly, every kid is patiently awaiting the main event: the Easter Egg Hunt. Once released from the confines of the church, kids all over the world run like crazed prison escapees across lawns, through apartments, and between houses, viciously knocking each other over in search of sugary confections packed into brightly colored plastic eggs.
Back in the 70s when I grew up, the objects of our hunt were slightly different. Somehow, the Easter Bunny broke into our house every year, found the hard-boiled eggs that we dyed, and scattered them around our yard.
After church, my brother and I would burst from the family station wagon and race through the yard in search of the eggs and our baskets. Usually, the eggs, which had apparently been hidden for more than an hour, were smeared from the dewy grass, and the drippy food coloring often got on the white gloves I wore with my crocheted Easter dress each year.
My older brother didn’t particularly like hard-boiled eggs, but the competitive nature of the hunt sent him on a wild rampage. He often whizzed past me, swooping in to grab his prize. I didn’t mind much, because I knew that the Easter Bunny had my back. I knew there was candy somewhere especially for me. Sure enough, I would eventually find it – an Easter basket behind a shrub or under a sawhorse in the garage, with my name on it, packed with sweet treats.
My brother and I also always had one filled egg or a chocolate bunny in the center of our baskets – surrounded by what seemed like an eternal supply of Brach’s jellybeans, marshmallow “Peeps,” and tiny foil-covered Hershey chocolate eggs nestled in the strands of plastic grass. For the most part, my parents allowed us free reign to dive into the spoils of our hunt, provided we ate the obligatory slice of ham and plop of scalloped potatoes at supper.
Back then, however, I exhibited some early hoarding tendencies, and was known to squirrel away the basket in my room for safekeeping. I would ration slices of my filled egg for as long as I could, until it eventually became a hardened, crystallized lump that I had to throw away. In retrospect, I wish I had stuffed my face while I could, because later, during my chunky years, the Easter Bunny inexplicably brought me sugarless gum and packs of raisins.
Today, however, the Easter Bunny has more options. The fruit and nut-filled eggs of the past have been replaced by an endless array of individually wrapped chocolate confections, all miniaturized to fit into a bright plastic egg that won’t ruin one’s Easter dress.
Gone are the days when purple jellybeans reigned superior – those candy dinosaurs have been edged out by tiny one-inch square miniature candy bars in every brand: Snickers, Milky Ways, Reese’s, Whoppers, Baby Ruths, M&Ms, Kit Kats, Butterfingers, Hershey Bars, Peppermint Patties, Twizzlers, Starburst, and Skittles, to name a few.
All these relative newcomers have replaced old beloveds like Mallow Cups, Zagnuts, Gold Mine Gum Sacks, Necco Wafers, Good-N-Plenty, Sugar Daddies, Razzles, Chuckles, Circus Peanuts, Chick-o-Sticks, Boston Baked Beans, Charleston Chews and Bubblegum Cigarettes. Even though the packaging is different, the sentiment is still the same: Kids want candy on Easter and lots of it.
One might conclude that candy is the evil vice that has sucked the meaning out of the holiday. But I like to think that the tiny tasty confections are just our children’s rewards for donning itchy dresses and suits, sitting on hard wooden pews, and choking down rubbery ham and soggy green beans. And besides, watching the joy on their faces during an Easter egg hunt is really God’s gift to us on Easter, and He doesn’t mind us indulging in that sweetness one bit.