Commerce now is Easter's religion

April 15, 2001|By Christine Holzmueller

EASTER IS SUCH a money-grubbing business these days that the message, "He has risen," is buried in the artificial grass.

Everywhere you turn are bunnies, chicks, eggs and candy in every size, color and wrapping imaginable. Mass-produced bunnies dyed pastel pink or powder blue, with floppy or upright ears, spill out of every nook and cranny at your local store

You can buy a palm-sized, yellow fuzzy chick that chirps or an oversized stuffed duckling with an orange platypus-like beak. Let's not stop at stuffed though: If an animated "toy" suits your fancy, visit your local pet shop.

Kathy Woods, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, dreads pet-promoting holidays like Easter. "Chicks are sold way too young," she asserts, "and that's because they are not yellow and fuzzy at four months, when they are ready to leave mom."

Unlike many wild animals, ducks must be taught to fly, migrate and survive. This is mom's job. Ms. Woods ends up scrambling around, rescuing injured and starving ducklings, about two to three months after Easter.

"Not all of them live," said Ms. Woods. "If they do, they can't fly or survive in the wild. Selling bunnies and chicks as a symbol of Christ's rebirth distorts the meaning."

The name of the game seems to be gimmicks. Nothing is sacred. In fact, there isn't much of a religious theme to Easter outside of going to church. "If I recall," remarked Ms. Woods, "the story of how a robin got its red breast is a child's fable" not a Bible story.

That doesn't stop the reproduction of speckled robin eggs into candy, bubble gum and egg dying kits.

Will your child like dark, white or milk chocolate bunnies? Do you buy the solid and make your child happy or the hollow and make your dentist smile? This problem is forgotten when you spot butter cream, coconut cream, caramel, peanut butter, pecan and walnut fudge-filled eggs.

As if these goodies aren't enough for 7-year-old Brandon Buckley, "Easter means jelly beans." Fruit juicy, fat free, spiced, speckled, less pectin, more pectin -- a shopper could get dizzy just looking at the display.

Where does it stop? It seems that more money goes into corporate pockets than offering plates. There's a special-edition Easter Barbie or a prepackaged Disney theme basket. Blink your eyes after Christmas and Hershey and Brachs have changed their candy coatings from red and green to pastel spring colors.

Gift-giving doesn't stop beyond puberty. Hallmark and FTD begin marketing their wares for adults long before the ice melts off the Christmas trees. Greeting cards framed by Easter purple and canary yellow envelopes touch every member of the family. There are cards for multiple generations of relatives, including cousins. Mixed among this menagerie are cards for single and married relatives, significant others, secret pals, a juvenile, a suitable teen and a religious theme.

And where would a simple card be without a flower? Trumpet-shaped white lilies peeking out of flower-shop windows announce that Easter is near. Walking among fragrant aisles, it's hard to choose between the regal day lily, the pungent hyacinth, the pink swirl of a calla lily or the feathery blossomed azalea bush.

This spectral of delicate and colorful flora does seem to celebrate the rebirth of Christ. The mood, however, is soon shattered when you spot the sunrise cactus (a.k.a. Christmas and Thanksgiving cactus). Is the sunrise cactus some new hybrid that blooms at daybreak, or did they just change the name to sell the product?

Americans have moved from an era of religious jubilation to an age of economic celebration. What will it take to remind everyone that Easter is supposed to be a religious holiday?

Christine Holzmueller is a free-lance writer who lives in Canton.

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