With all our family emergencies, I haven't been posting much about Lent, but now that Holy Week is suddenly upon us, I thought I'd post about Easter baskets, since many of us will be filling them this week.
Since Easter is the most glorious feast of our Church year, I've always wanted to make a big deal about it. And to me, who loves presents, that means real presents in the Easter baskets along with the candy and stuffed bunnies. My parents made a point of always including something religious, but I love tucking useful items and fun toys into my kids' baskets as well. I typically go out scouting at the local flea markets and other stores for basket-sized fare. Some treasures I've had fun putting in our family baskets include:
From the flea market or secondhand store:
Silver baby spoons and silverware, especially for babies who can't eat sugar but who love putting things in their mouths
Beatrix Potter and Classic Pooh books
Paintboxes for watercolors (as you can see above)
folk art figurines of roosters, pigs, and other animals
strings of wooden and vintage bead necklaces for resident princesses
new toothbrushes in bright colors
Small baskets for jelly beans that double as doll Easter baskets
small wooden trucks
pewter mugs for Dad's Easter ale
small tin boxes (sometimes egg-shaped!) that you can tuck a love letter to your child inside
From the hardware store:
small paint brushes
packets of seeds
inexpensive gardening tools for kids who need to dig
small tin pails for the sandbox
small hammers or screwdrivers for the budding carpenter (or for Dad, whose regular tools have been borrowed too many times)
spring-themed cookie cutters
small potted plant or herbs that the children can plant outside
From our religious bookstore:
small rosaries (they used to sell them in Easter eggs when I was a child...)
Books about the Resurrection
patron saint medals (can fit nicely into an Easter egg)
From the library sale or used bookstore:
secondhand hardcovers of favorite books, fiction or nonfiction, signed to each child
From the discount grocery store:
boxes of Celestial Seasoning tea
Ramen soup noodles
honey sticks for tea
chocolate-covered cranberries (yum!)
gourmet chocolates in unusual shapes: once we found hedgehogs!
Goldfish crackers, which we usually never buy
Butterfly shaped crackers for spring
With candy, I tend to do quality over quantity: one or two nice chocolates, a tiny basket of jelly beans, three or four peeps or chocolate peanut butter eggs can make my children extremely happy. And don't forget the visual impact of one elaborate chocolate bunny or a pretty marshmallow pop in the shape of Peter Rabbit.
As for the rabbits and stuffed chicks, I collect small ones from the Salvation Army throughout the year and use the same ones every year. After the Easter Octave I just gather them up and furtively replace them in the Easter box for next year. By now, each family member has their own "special" animal that appears in their basket every year.
And don't forget to hide your baskets instead of just setting them out on the dining room table! My in-laws always did this, and it's become our post-Mass game: after Easter brunch, the kids begin scouting around for their baskets, which we parents assemble and hide the night before. The baby's basket might be hidden behind the living room chair, but the ten year old boy's basket might be hidden behind the refridgerator. As for husbands and wives - we can be cutthroat. One year I wrapped Andrew's basket in a garbage bag and hid it under the existing trash ... he took his revenge last year by hanging mine from the highest beam in our cathedral ceiling. (I had to ask him nicely, very nicely to get it down.) Hiding the baskets brings to mind that the best blessings of the kingdom are hidden, like treasures in a field, and must be sought and found.
May God bless your Holy Week and Easter!