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With no disrespect meant whatsoever, Easter makes for some heavy cognitive dissonance. One the one hand, millions of Christians worldwide will mark the death and resurrection of Jesus. And on the other, you've got chocolate bunnies and jelly beans galore.
And as with any other occasion on our calendars, Easter marks yet another holiday made for spending, and consuming copious quantities of chocolate. This year, the National Retail Federation estimates that the average celebrant will spend approximately $145.13 on candy, decor, apparel, and food. And after conducting our own Easter egg hunt for stats, we've got other numbers on tap regarding this Spring holiday.
So whether you're hiding eggs in the backyard or planning a big family brunch, here's the rundown on stats, spending, and trivia surrounding this holiday that dates back to the 4th century. Read on, and fist bump that hippity-hoppity Easter Bunny as he's passing by.
The NRF tells us that much of this spending will be done on behalf of the kiddos, in the form of bright new outfits. And as the song "Easter Parade" hints, you can bet that some ladies will spend money on a new Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it. But hey, guys get into the act, too. There are quite a few pictures on Jezebel from the 2011 Easter Parade in NYC, and we saw all manner of headgear from psuedo-flower pot puppy caps to frosting-pink TV-shaped boxes adorned with none other than rabbit ears.
Americans love their candy holidays: Halloween, Valentine's Day, Christmas, and 80% Cacao Chocolate Day (which is every day for this writer). While Valentine's tends to be a time for truffles and gift-box candy, it's jelly beans and chocolate bunnies that reign supreme come Easter Time. But as you might expect, there's some debate about the best way to consume a chocolate bunny. The folks at Statistic Brain, citing figures from the National Confectioner's Association, tell us that 3 in 4 Americans (76%) think choco-rabbits should be eaten ears first. And when you think about it, biting just about anywhere else constitutes cruelty to candy animals.
If Christmas has the inedible, incredible fruitcake, then Easter has the Peep, a bizarre bit of culinary mystery food that seems both cool and, yes, cruel to eat. (These are baby chicks, people!) The factory that makes Peeps is cranking out enough of these sugar birdies in a year to circle the Earth twice, according to Business News Daily. By the way, it took 27 hours to create one Peeps marshmallow chick in 1953. Today, thanks to advances in technology, it takes six minutes. Also back in 1953, it took about 45 seconds to eat a Peep. Today, thanks to advances in the American appetite for strange junk food, it takes about six seconds.
This one also comes to us from Statistic Brain, and it's a daunting, daunting number. We don't know how America's confectioners keep count. But here's how it breaks down: This are 2.3 jelly beans for every man, woman, and child on Planet Earth. Who knew a little orb of candy-coated sugar could prove such an Easter enticement? Variety-wise, the folks at Jelly Belly make their beans in 50 different flavors, including Cream Soda, Tangerine, Green Apple, and Root Beer. As for myself, I'm growing more worried each year that Jelly Belly will come out with a Christmas Fruitcake jelly bean, one that has the same chewing-on-a-tire consistency as the real thing.
Enough with junk food! The NRF estimates that spending on items for an Easter meal will cost about $45 range. What's fascinating is how much Easter grub varies from culture to culture, family to family. In my Italian-American family, Easter meant lasagna, chicken cutlets, meatballs, and little nougat candies called "torrone," which is Italian for "tower." (Here is a great recipe from Martha Stewart.) In a Polish household, the favorites include kielbasa, ham, and babka (a slightly sweet yeast bread). Among Mexican families, you might find fried plantains, nodal (a flat-leafed cactus), or shrimp covered with a traditional sauce called pippin, made with spices and pumpkin seeds. Yum!
It's said that Irving Berlin took a really long time to write "Easter Parade" — about 15 years, on and off — and by the time the song became a hit in the 1930s, the parade tradition in the U.S. was already decades old. The first official parade dates to 1876, the year officials in Atlantic City, N.J. kicked off their promenade, hoping to draw crowds from Philadelphia's Centennial Exposition. But truth be told, the tradition was taken from New York City, which had its own Easter parades going (sort of) years before. New York City's Easter parades actually began by accident, in the mid-1800s, when well-heeled church patrons leaving services would stroll along 5th Avenue in their finery. Atlantic City's parade on the Boardwalk this year hardly seems a big deal; sadly, there's barely any mention of it anywhere online. But given all the city suffered in 2012, it seems as good a time as any to attend and wish the city a comeback season.
Yup, that's right. While there's no way of counting how many Easter eggs will be dyed in how many nations, there's one egg that simply refuses to die: the one Judith Bowen, a 73-year-old from Wootton, Beds, England bought at age 17 for her mother. The full story recently appeared in the New York Daily News, and talks about how Bowen found the still-unopened, gold-wrapping covered egg at her mother's home after she had passed away in 2006. We're betting the shelf life of this egg has long since expired, too.
And so as Easter arrives, it's a good time for both reflection and celebration. No matter how you celebrate the holiday (and even if you don't), we can all look forward to it as a milestone for the beginning of spring. It's been too cold for too long in many parts of the U.S., yet no matter what the thermometer says on Easter Sunday, here's hoping it leaves a warm feeling in your heart.