One newspaper insert screams “Easter deals in full bloom!” A chain retailer advertises pre-filled Easter baskets brimming with toy jewelry, clothes and Barbie dolls. Another shows me “toys under $10 to fill their baskets.” Movie studios and toy companies once rushed to get their wares out before the winter holidays; now it seems Easter suffices just as well. We bemoan the materialism that plagues the winter holidays of Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. But it used to be that we got a break for several months before the cycle started again. Now Easter provides another set of pressures to make kids “happy” with material things. Retailers are partly to blame. Corporate officials are making the business decision to market merchandise for any holiday, whether real or created (Administrative Professionals Day, anyone?). But we as consumers are to blame, too. Do we have to buy into it? Do parents and grandparents need to shower children with not only the traditional Easter candy, but games and toys and books, too? Are we creating a new generation of children who will expect gifts for any holiday? Presidents’ Day? Labor Day?
Easter gifts don’t make sense to me. At least giving gifts at Christmas comes from the established tradition of wise men bringing gifts to the Christ child. I’m not arguing that Easter (or spring in general if you’re not Christian) isn’t a worthy celebration. To Christians, Jesus’ resurrection is an incredible gift. But no one stood around the empty tomb exchanging smartly wrapped boxes and elaborately decorated gift bags. When I was young, I got an Easter basket filled with one item: A one-pound bag of plain M&Ms. That indeed was a treat to a young child who loved her M&Ms.
But I remember more fondly the Easter ham and the big family get-together at Aunt Helen’s. The M&Ms were quickly eaten, but the memories of family gatherings haven’t yet receded. I couldn’t wait to play pick-up basketball games with my cousins if the weather was warm. When I walked into Helen’s house, Grandma gave me a hug and kiss, nothing more: No Easter basket, no candy, no games. The hug and the kiss is the one gift I wish I could receive again.