Question: What is the yummiest Easter treat? Answer: the raw carrots left for the Easter Bunny.
The correct answer, per this snackoisseur, is the delicious milk-chocolate bunny; the iconic Easter treat. Whether solid or hollow, the tall bunny is an especially prized part – indeed the centerpiece — of any Easter basket that a child wakes up to on Easter morning. No basket is truly complete without it.
The chocolate Easter bunny is especially delightful when surrounded by jelly beans, chocolate eggs filled with crème, speckled malted milk balls, little milk-chocolate eggs wrapped in colorful foil and bright yellow and pink marshmallow chicks. All sit on a bed of plastic grass in a large wicker basket wrapped in brightly colored cellophane tied with a huge, puffy bow.
When I was a kid, the big chocolate Easter bunny’s ears were almost always the first thing to go. Then his little head got eaten, then his neck, before chomping all the way down to the bunny’s “cottontail.” Red jelly beans were my favorite, followed by orange, then yellow. I was generous enough to let other family members eat the green and black ones.
The tradition in our home when my brother, sister and I were young was that the Easter Bunny brought the basket the night before as we slept, just like Santa Claus brought the presents he left under the tree on Christmas. The big, colorful basket filled with favorite candy was always the second Easter basket at our home. The first one we made the night before with Easter eggs dyed in bright spring pastels of yellow, pink, green and sky blue and decorated with our names, polka dots, flowers and Crosses.
Early Easter morning, we awoke to find the enchanting Easter Basket on the coffee table in front of the couch in our living room. Easter breakfast consisted of hard-boiled Easter eggs, toast, orange juice and plenty of pieces of Easter chocolate “snuck” in for good measure. Thus fortified, it was now time to embark on our Easter egg hunt outside.
Our parents filled plastic Easter eggs with money– and hid them all over the front and back yards. We searched in the lawn and under bushes for the colorful eggs containing cash. Dimes and quarters abounded, but some had Kennedy half dollars or even dollar bills tucked inside. This was lots better than the tooth fairy! Usually, I found the most eggs and never shared any of my winnings.
A succulent baked ham glazed with pineapple was the best part of Easter dinner. Mom also made au-gratin potatoes, candied sweet potatoes that were my Dad’s favorite, creamed corn, green- bean casserole, or cheesy cauliflower with warm oven-baked rolls as sides. For dessert, we had lamb cake, a pound cake baked in a lamb mold and decorated with frosting and jelly-bean eyes and nose. It looked too good to eat, but we ate it anyway.
Our family rarely attended Mass on Easter Sunday, although my sister, brother and I were baptized Catholic. The true meaning of Easter had mostly escaped me during my childhood. By adulthood, I was fairly agnostic and an unrepentant sinner. But there was always something deep inside, a nugget of belief that rumbled just beneath the surface. It first showed itself when my brother, Michael, died of cancer at the untimely age of 25. I organized his funeral Mass, choosing the readings, the 23rd Psalm and the songs, including “Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore,” a tribute to the fishing boat he bought to celebrate his earlier remission from cancer.
That nugget of belief ignited years later when I was praying for my sister, who was going through a cancer scare, which was especially frightening given the tragic loss of our brother. During my fervent prayer for my sister’s health, I suddenly realized that I was praying to Jesus, and I continued praying to Him even after her cancer scare revealed nothing serious. Soon I began praying every day and shopping for a church home. I wound up going to Mass weekly and over time, became confirmed as a Catholic. I always knew in my head the real meaning of Easter was the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ – not chocolate – but now I felt this in my heart.
There have been many Crosses in my life since then, and my faith has waxed and waned as a result. However, with this Easter season, I am finding new life and new hope. My health remains good, I lost weight and I am focused on writing, looking for a job and gradually quitting smoking. No April Fools’ joke, I wish you all a very happy and hopeful Easter!