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Underwear, Cigarettes, and Other Easter Basket Curiosities

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Among the stranger traditions of Christian holidays is the Easter basket: Children receive a basket filled, in layers, with some kind of fake grass (shredded cellophane or raffia, depending on the crunchiness of the giver), a large chocolate in the shape of a rabbit, and an armful of plastic eggs in a range of hyper pastels filled with candy (jelly beans, chocolate-malt eggs, peanut butter cups, peanut butter cups in the shape of eggs, and so on). Occasionally there's a crinkly package of sugar-coated marshmallows in the shape of a loosely interpreted bird.

Some say that the tradition of the Easter basket evolved out of the important symbolism of the egg in springtime celebrations (and because Christianity traditionally forbids eating eggs during Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter). Children were told that, in order to receive Easter eggs (or eggs again, after Lent), they should make a nest out of a basket (and pad it with grass—hence cellophane grass!) and hope that eggs might be laid in it on Easter morning.

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These Easter eggs (and now, the Easter basket) were presumably delivered to the child’s home not by the rational assumption of "hen" or "goose" or other egg-laying creature, but by a rabbit—the Easter Bunny. The Bunny is possibly descended from beliefs that the pagan goddess of spring, Eostre, kept a rabbit as a pet; others say that theory is poppycock. You decide.

If you grew up with this, the ritual is as natural and warm-fuzzy as the sentiment of Santa Claus (a stranger who knows when you’re sleeping and awake, and also who breaks into your house to deliver gifts). But out of context, this is deeply, deeply peculiar. (David Sedaris writes wonderfully about this in an essay in which, in a French language class, he and his classmates try to explain Easter—“the rabbit of Easter, he brings of the chocolate”—and receive half-confused, half-horrified stares from those who don't observe the holiday.)

Easter baskets have largely been secularized (in fact, some very observant Christians condemn the basket's pagan roots, asserting, fairly, that the sugar bomb-ness of it distracts from the real reason for the holiday, Christ's resurrection). But the secularization has, we found, led to some curious and wonderful Easter basket abstractions—and many of the Food52 team have been finding a whole lot more than plastic eggs and jellybeans in their baskets all these years.

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In addition to Cadbury Creme Eggs and 5-packs of cotton Fruit of the Loom undies, the Easter Bunny brought me my first Destiny’s Child CD. And our community manager Kaitlin Bray (who was, I found out, also getting Fruit of the Looms from the good ol' EB) got a highly prized Spice Girls Spice cassette tape. And David Sedaris, in his adulthood, found cartons of cigarettes in his basket.

We want to hear about your best, most beloved, and downright wackiest Easter treats and traditions and memories—whether your Easters are forever tainted with the memory of your cats barfing up cellophane grass (like our account manager, Clare Slaughter) or you were hungover post-prom and tackling your best friends in an egg hunt organized by your sweet parents (like our assistant editor Leslie Stephens). And if you’re more on the Easter Bunny end and less on the receiving end, what are you filling the baskets with? (The same things you got as a kid?)

Share your stories with us in the comments!


Our magical menu genie will plan your holiay feast for you.

Tags: easter, easter baskets