Friday, April 6, 2012

Food Essay Friday: The Junkifying of Our Holidays

This article may be a little schizo (i.e hypocritical) because for today's post I was torn between posting sugary Easter ideas and this. So if you ignore it entirely I won't be offended. Though, truly, I'm not quite as much of a hypocrite as I may seem and even if I was, I think the ideas in this essay are still sound, even if yours truly has issues.

When we were young kids this is what we got in our baskets: 
1. Hard-boiled eggs, sometimes elaborately colored by my mother
2. The occasional raw egg, sometimes elaborately colored by my mother. How they always got mixed in with the boiled ones is still a mystery. Also, it was usually the youngest child who ended up with the raw eggs; this is also a mystery.
3. Jelly beans
4. Peeps (seriously...gross)
5. 1 big Cadbury egg (it was the only one we would see all year and I looked forward to it all year)
6. Homemade peanut butter egg.
7. Homemade Easter chocolates (made from molds).
8. Maybe some other stuff, like Robin's eggs, although I don't remember these as a yearly fixture.
9. There was one year we got (or at least I got) one of those big hollow chocolate bunnies, though I'm pretty sure I begged for them every year.

My mother also made (as in sewed as in with a sewing machine) me and my two sisters matching Easter dresses and sometimes we got a bonnet to go with. These were pretty cherished (I have a quilt with squares of some of the fabric she used and I love it) and they cost my mom a certain amount of time and sanity.

What we did not get when we were kids:
1. Cadbury eggs (the little milk chocolate ones; I didn't even know these existed until I got married to an addict)
2. Big Reese's eggs
3. Any regular candy (Butterfinger, Snickers, etc) shaped like an egg and wrapped in foil
4. Stuffed animals
5. Toys of any kind

What we got at school: 
1. Nothing
(although we did have the week before Easter off instead of having spring break at some random time in March)

What we got from our grandparents and extended family (who weren't local, but who certainly loved us very much):
1. Nothing

Today I went to Walmart to get a gift for my daughter's friend's birthday. I also picked up a bag of jelly beans in order to make a treat I had in mind. And when I got home I realized I actually picked up 2 bags of jelly beans because I shopped with my 4 children (the littlest was blamed for the extra bag getting into the cart), which is about as economically wise as taking all your retirement money to Vegas. But that's not the point. The point is that I felt a little guilty about the jelly beans and about making a treat at all because I'd already bought big Cadbury eggs, mini Cadbury eggs, big Reese's eggs, and Robin's eggs (and this was scaling back from last year). My seven-year-old had already received an entire basket's worth of candy from her school party. And I was planning to shop candy sales come Monday. To our credit, I've done a good job keeping this stuff under wraps--we have not been eating candy for the last two weeks. But still. It's like Halloween all over again. Or at least like Old school Halloween. New school Halloween is much much bigger (the candy itself as well as the amount given).

And not only is it like Halloween, it costs more. As we walked through the front of the store to the car and I saw what everyone else was buying: candy, eggs, stuffed animals, toys, pre-packaged baskets, cookies, cupcakes, the works. I am not judging; I am among these people. They aren't rich people, just as we aren't rich people. I don't wish to tally up my candy bill. Suffice it to say that I'd estimate it roughly at $15 so far. And for what? So much candy that it's going to totally stress me out when I see my kids (and husband) eating that much of it. And for why? Because these are the types of candy we get every year. It's a tradition by gum and, thus, a ?need?.

Of course the junk doesn't end with the sweet things. There's plenty of other junk in all our holidays. There are the toys that will break and the baskets that will go in the trash and the stuffed animals that everyone loves for a little while, but that end up in the Goodwill bin by June. There are tokens, I think, of a ghost we're grasping at--a nostalgia created by childhood and advertising, by movie scenes of pink-dressed girls hunting for eggs.

I'm advocating, I think, not for stoicism or thoughtlessness, but for simpler, more thoughtful holidays, for gifts you give knowing your children will love them, for candy bought not out of some twisted sense of obligation or fairness (and twisted sense of obligation is totally my specialty), but to give a little something sweet, for meaningful tokens for those we love, and for meaningful symbols of the holiday that celebrates the re-birth of Christ.

I'm not saying I'm good at it, only that I wish to be.

Now stay-tuned for a healthy-ish idea tomorrow and one that isn't so much. Told you I was schizo.


  1. Like. Also, gifts for Easter? That seems bizarre to me. Seems like a lot of kids get as many gifts for Easter as my kids do for Christmas. And then as much candy as Halloween... hey wait, what holiday IS this? Bizarre!

  2. I loved Easter as a child. I knew there would be a plastic basket full of weird plastic 'grass' and a hollow-bodied chocolate bunny waiting for me when I woke up. I also knew I would get to wear new white shoes, white socks with lacy edges, and a new fancy dress. Sometimes a new hat too if we weren't too destitute that year.
    I don't have a problem with candy or gifts at Easter. It's no weirder to me than the food-fest that is the whole month between Thanksgiving and December, or the barrage of toys my kids at Christmas. We don't do Easter baskets for our kids, but my mom gives them to our kids. I actually prefer toys/gifts to candy, because at least it will last longer than five minutes and will not rot their teeth!
    But my children aren't in school so the school party thing isn't really an issue for us. I can see how definitely irritating that would be.

    1. Don't get me wrong. I LOVED Easter too (and still do). I loved all the holidays. So it's not that I have a problem with candy or gifts; I just feel like in some ways it's gone overboard (and I'm totally guilty of it). I feel like all the holidays have gone overboard actually--with money spent, junk consumed, and expectations raised and raised again. it's a little crazy to me. This Christmas something went a little too far with me (with the food actually, not the gifts) and so I've been a little super sensitive to the holiday gluttony since then.

      Also, it does help not to have the kids in school. They give out a lot of junk food at school (and when the don't the kids feel deprived--Mark's class didn't have a party and I haven't heard the end of it). It's a little mind blowing. And the thing is I want to be able to "treat" my kids for the holidays and build sweet traditions and that sort of thing, but sometimes I feel like they're already so treated up that anything I do takes us over the edge. Or maybe I'm just an over the edge person. I don't know. Anyway, I'm trying to find a balance this year and sometimes succeeding, but not with the amount of Easter candy I bought:) (and I keep having the urge to make jillions of treats and just know I can't).

  3. Ummm, you forgot our homemade peanut butter eggs!!! Yum!

    1. I know. I thought of it at, like, 10:00 last night. Fixing it now...

  4. I'm with Heather on this one :) Though, my kids' school has a "no candy or sweet treats" policy, so maybe that's some of it.
    I feel like LDS don't really celebrate Easter like other denominations do (at church). Sure, we are always hearing about the atonement and the resurrection, and that's great, but I don't generally see anything SPECIAL happening on Easter Sunday. It's kind of different for me.
    Last year we did a Jesus-y Easter activity or craft just about every day for the MONTH leading up to Easter. It was a lot of fun, but I didn't feel like doing it again this year :) Maybe next year!
    My kids always get a stuffed bunny (and they really love those stupid bunnies!) and too much candy. Some years they've gotten other things, but usually not. And we ALWAYS have a candy-filled-plastic egg hunt as soon as the kids wake up in the morning.

    1. Oh, and E & L still believe in the Easter Bunny... Which is fun, but fairly ridiculous.



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