A tisket, a tasket, it’s time for Easter baskets. Easter is no longer for the religious minded. In fact, it really hasn’t been for a long time. Arbor Day might still be all about the trees but those other holidays have been mass marketed to death — we’re all Irish on St. Patrick’s Day! Bring on Santa Claus and Christmas presents! Presidents Day? Isn’t that just another excuse to shop shoe sales? The surprise of holidays isn’t who actually celebrates them. The surprise is who acknowledges them for anything other than another chance to eat, drink, be merry and contribute to the bottom line of the greeting card industry.
Easter is no different.
This is why we have bunnies. My meager religious education might have handed me a different Bible than everybody else but I don’t really recall rabbits playing a key role in the Easter story. These bunnies for no discernible reason bring the children baskets which are hidden in odd places, like the clothes dryer never to be found by a distraught tot until a “helpful” parent suggests pulling a fresh towel from the laundry room.
These baskets are filled with plastic grass. Grass that will inevitably be stuck on clothing and in vacuums and upon which there are chalky chocolatey treats often shaped like bunnies themselves. Doesn’t that seem slightly odd and cruel — rabbits encouraging others to eat different rabbits? Maybe it’s a hidden metaphor for sacrifice.
See? This is the problem with Easter. The celebration leads one to wax philosophically about life’s unanswered puzzles like why exactly rabbits pass out eggs and, if TV is to be believe, manage to hatch out chocolate eggs filled with sugary yolks. Or, if the food dye industry is behind the annual hard-boiled egg coloring ritual. And Peeps — sweet Jesus, how did a marshmallow-y treat that scientists claim can’t be dissolved in acetone or sulfuric acid ever become so darn popular?
The biggest unknown is what the heck any of these traditions has to do with the resurrection of Jesus. It is Jesus, isn’t it? A heathen childhood which was more about basket goodies than religious instruction — much to my Catholic grandmother’s chagrin — means I can’t be certain. This likely also means the only basket in my future is the hand-held one on a straight trip to the underworld.
But lest one think Easter never had any religious undertones in my life, let me correct you. Easter was the opportunity to watch “The Ten Commandments.” That’s right. Just as Thanksgiving evening was the time for “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” Easter was on the calendar to watch the Red Sea part and try figuring out how to play “Hounds and Jackals” like the pharaohs. I might not have been dragged to mass but every year like clockwork was the time to check out Charlton Heston’s hair, ponder why all that pyramid construction wasn’t a dirtier looking gig and wish that I could turn the water red. Now that’s a party trick.
“The Ten Commandments” also was a marker for adulthood. As a child, I could never stay awake through the entire lengthy feature and always without fail nodded off somewhere around the time Moses came down from speaking to the bush with his newly grayed hair. The first time I kept my eyes open until his return to Egypt I knew I’d finally grown up. Well, there was that indicator and the fact that I no longer went hunting in major household appliances for Easter baskets filled with drugstore candy, stuffed animals made for a child way below my age and inevitably those Peeps.
Michelle Durand’s column “Off the Beat” runs every Tuesday and Thursday. She can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. What do you think of this column? Send a letter to the editor: email@example.com.