Easter held a special place in my heart as a child. Even though Christmas meant lots of toys and gifts to unwrap, Easter was the time when I got to wear a fancy dress and hat and get it muddy by running around outside for the first time all year. Easter was competing with my sister to see who could dye the prettiest Easter eggs and eating rainbow-tinted egg salad for days on end. And obviously, Easter meant candy.
Candy to children is like currency, and on Easter, we were all rich as kings. Mountains of jelly beans, sticky marshmallow Peeps, Cadbury eggs so sweet they made your teeth hurt, giant hollow chocolate bunnies that always shattered the moment you bit into them. In short, Easter was simple and very, very sweet.
I’ve only held the title of mom for a few years, but in that time I’ve watched children’s Easter baskets in my Facebook feed grow from piles of plastic eggs filled with chocolate robin's eggs and jelly beans to mounds of gifts, clothes and bicycles with a small wicker basket hidden somewhere in the center of the picture with a chocolate bunny tucked inside as an afterthought. This year I even saw a photo of a child’s plastic pool transformed into a giant Easter basket with the help of a hula hoop handle, filled to bursting with presents.
With this generation of parents more concerned than ever about feeding their children a healthy diet, it’s easy to see where the preference for Easter toys over Easter candy comes from. But seeing as how Christmas was only a few months ago, it’s hard to imagine what else kids could possibly want or need that Santa Claus didn't deliver.
And shifting the focus of Easter away from simple candy to piles of presents not only dilutes the magic of Christmas, it creates unreasonable expectations for all holidays to become an excuse for receiving a ton of gifts. What’s next? Fourth of July gift exchanges?
Candy isn't supposed to be an every day food, and even if it's the only thing kids receive in their Easter basket, that alone should be enough to thrill them. Plus, if my kids spill LEGOs or little green army men all over the floor, the only benefit I get from bending down to pick them up is knowing I won’t skewer my foot on that toy in the middle of the night. If I pick up a rogue jelly bean that’s perfectly protected from any floor seasonings by its hard candy shell, then I get a sweet treat.
Budget concerns aside, determining what gifts to purchase for your children is hard enough already for Christmas and for birthdays. Preventing Easter from becoming another gifting holiday by keeping the focus on candy is less stressful than having to assess which toys your child doesn’t own or which new ones they’d be likely to play with. It also makes it very easy to not play favorites and keep things fair between multiple kids. When everyone’s getting the same sweets in their baskets, you don’t have to sit down and tabulate everything you buy to try to make sure everyone is getting an equal value and similar number of presents.
Easter remains one of the few holidays that features candy you can’t readily get year-round, and that’s a big part of what makes it so fun. The reason the Cadbury crème egg and crackly chocolate robin’s eggs taste so good is partially because you can’t run out to the store in September and buy them. Even the sugar monstrosity known as the Peep is novel enough that I’ll try one each year, if only to spit it out and shake my head in disbelief over how I used to eat them by the dozens.
Sure, Halloween is also a day where we let kids have tons of sugar, but it’s not the same. Halloween candy requires the effort of dressing up and going door to door, and even though it’s free, that candy is just miniature versions of what’s readily available at the grocery store checkout. But Easter is less complex. If you’re religious then it’s about the joy of the resurrection, and if you’re not then it’s about the joy of welcoming another spring. Easter is when a giant chocolate bunny can magically appear overnight, just because (or because your mom happened to have PMS the day she went shopping and went a teeny bit overboard), without a child having to do anything to earn it.
Even Christmas gifts purportedly hinge on a child being well-behaved throughout the year, lest a felt-clad elf doll rat them out to Santa Claus. Each December, kids unwillingly sit on Santa's lap to ask for presents, but even if you choose to treat/traumatize your child by bringing them to meet the Easter Bunny, they're not expected to hold an awkward conversation.
My parenting philosophy is to try to keep things simple, and for my family, when it comes to Easter, nothing is simpler than sugar.
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