Underwear, Cigarettes, and Other Easter Basket Curiosities

March 25, 2016

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.

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.

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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.

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!

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Writing and cooking in Brooklyn.


AmandaClaire March 27, 2016
When my dad was in college, he and his housemates started something they called "the Easter Beer Hunt". They would hide beers around a picnic area in the forest and if you were thirsty, you had to hunt. The hidden beers could then be swapped out for cold ones in the coolers. 43 years later, there are still over 20 of us who go out every Easter!
Courtney T. March 26, 2016
The Easter Bunny always brings my kiddo vegetable seeds to plant in addition to sweets and a toy.
Tryumph March 26, 2016
Growing up, Easter baskets were quite a tradition. I would get mine with the "white" chocolate rabbit every year, as I wouldn't eat any other kind. ( what was I thinking?) As I got older my mother would always make baskets for all my friend with the threat the basket had to come back to her empty or there would be no basket next year. When I got married and had a family, we would still get our baskets, and they went back every year. I realized I didn't want my son to consume all that chocolate, so he got toys in his basket. ( I could have bought a foreign car with all the money I spent on toys rather than candy). Now my mother is gone, as is most of the family, so I just hand my son some money and send him out to buy some camera equipment. but I still have the baskets.
kelly March 25, 2016
my father was determined to continue our childhood easter traditions *long* after my sister and i were out of college - including hiding colored eggs one easter morning so we could hunt for them. (one post-grad year, we both stayed in bed in protest and the eggs went un-found for several days until they started stinking up the house. we were forced to hunt for them out of necessity. dad's mission accomplished.) when we eventually moved out of the house, easter care packages would arrive filled with things like jelly beans, bubbles, chocolate bunnies, and jump ropes. when my dad passed away suddenly last spring, my sister and i discovered un-sent easter packages amongst his things. he had finally decided we were old enough for gourmet bunnies and liqueur-infused jelly beans. in gratitude for dad and his traditions, we stuffed our faces then and there.
Melanie C. March 26, 2016
How sweet is that. What a show of love and affection.
HalfPint March 25, 2016
The SOLID milk chocolate bunny was the best Easter basket goodie that I ever got. Because years of inferior, HOLLOW chocolate bunnies made me really eye any Easter basket with suspicion. Hollow chocolate made me such a little pessimist ;)
wulfferine75 March 25, 2016
I just saw a quasi-Tasty video where they cut the head off the hollow bunny and fill it with caramel vodka and chocolate liquor #whydidntithinkofthat
Melanie A. March 25, 2016
Although not part of my Easter basket, we did quite often eat rabbit stew for Easter dinner. Kind of twisted and weird as I look back on it.
Melanie C. March 26, 2016
It's not really. When I first mov to Italy I asked my husband why there were no chocolate Easter bunnies.... ? ...just chocolate eggs. Then he told me rabbit was on the menu for Easter.