The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

March 22, 2008

A Cavalcade of Somewhat Delightful Easter Merchandise

Filed under: Culture — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 2:08 am

As the Winter begins to give way to Spring, thoughts begin to turn to the renewal of the Earth that the change of season brings, and the promise of the Summer ahead.  It also brings with it the Easter holiday, and with it, nightmare-inducingly huge inflatable Easter Bunnies hawking chocolate, as you see above.  And that’s just the beginning.  Although the quantity of Easter-themed merchandise you’re going to find at your friendly neighborhood mega-mart doesn’t come close to the massive quantity of Christmas merchandise you’d find during the last three months of the year, you’d be surprised at just how much the stuff there is out there these days.  I’d say that the quantity is probably similar to what’s available for Valentine’s Day, and that one’s starting to look way too overcommercialized already.  I had previously noticed the apparent convergence of the assorted holidays (or at least the type of merchandise they’ll try to sell you for them) but there’s no shortage of kitschy, ridiculous or just downright questionable merchandise unique to Easter alone.  After the jump, a look at the somewhat delightful merchandise without which the stores would like you to believe that Easter would not be complete.

 There used to be a time when all you needed for a good old-fashioned Easter egg hunt was a basket or two, a couple dozen eggs from the grocery store and a PAAS kit, and you’d be all set.  Of course, all the traditional stuff is still out there, but these days it sits on the shelf next to a mind-boggling array of more modern Easter accoutrements, as you will see below.

If you’re going to go out hunting for Easter eggs, tradition says that you first need a basket in which to collect those eggs.  Judging by the shelves at some of the stores around here, the definition of what is considered to be a basket is just a little bit different from what I’m familiar with.  One thing which is peculiar about Easter when compared to some of the other commercialized holidays out there is that it doesn’t really have a well-defined image the way something like Christmas, Halloween or Valentine’s Day does.  For Christmas you’ve got the Coca-Cola version of Santa Claus that acts as the template for just about everything else, and for Valentine’s day you just need to put hearts on everything and call it good.  You don’t really have that well-defined theme for Easter, just some relatively vague references to eggs and bunnies.  As a result, it seems that a lot of the companies that make this stuff have filled in the gaps with pretty much every licensed character they could get their hands on, as you see in these three pictures.  Sure, the use of licensed characters in holiday merchandise is nothing unusual, but for some reason, it seems like they’ve just crammed the shelves full of the things for Easter.

If you happen to be getting fancy with your egg-hunting baskets, you’re going to add some Easter Grass to the bottom of your basket.  Of course, the stuff is rather fake looking, and pretty much useless for any other purpose besides sitting in an Easter basket and looking fake.  So why bother?  It’s tradition, of course.  On the other hand, clever people always seem to come up with new ways of doing things, and this edible Easter Grass seems to be one of them.  Sure, the stuff probably tastes like vaguely strawberry-flavored cardboard, but if nothing else, at least it’s somewhat more biodegradable than the plastic stuff, right?  Then again, I didn’t look too closely at the ingredients in this stuff, so I could be wrong on that…

Of course, for those people looking to further saturate their children’s brains with pop culture, you can get Easter grass with their favorite cartoon characters on it as well.

 

I suspect that when the first plastic easter eggs started appearing on the market it probably gave some of the traditionalists cause to lament the impending downfall of civilization.  It’s probably a good thing that there aren’t a lot of those people aren’t around these days, because the sheer number of different types of plastic eggs out there these days has increased dramatically.  Not content to stick with boring monochromatic plastic, you can find all sorts of different designs for your eggs.  If you were so inclined, you could probably find eggs to match your decor without disturbing the feng shui too badly.

Or you can just get the things plastered with cartoon characters if you want.  It’s up to you, really.

Seeing a pattern here? A lot of the plastic eggs you’ll find these days aren’t even eggs at all, just small plastic contaniers conveniently shaped to whatever popular character they managed to secure the marketing rights to. 

In many families, as the children begin to grow older, it becomes clear to parents that an added degree of challenge needs to be added to the traditional Easter egg hunt.  As I was growing up, the egg hunt always included what was known as the “Rotten Egg,” which was dunked in all of the colors of the egg decorating kit until it turned a rather unappealing shade of brownish purple.  This particular egg was always hidden in the most difficult to find spot that my parents could think of, and sometimes it would take a week or more of diligent searching before someone managed to find it.  I think there were even a couple of years when it was never found.  As me and my siblings have grown up and moved away, this Easter egg hunt tradition has fallen by the wayside, but it will only be a matter of time before the first of the grandchildren grow up, this particular tradition will resume.  Judging by the fact that plastic eggs are being made specifically to be difficult to find, I suspect that this tradition is actually pretty common. 

 

Of course, for some people out there, there’s no substitute for the real thing when it comes to easter eggs.  For more than 125 years now, the PAAS company has been providing Easter egg dying kits that have been used for generations, virtually unchanged over the years.  Oddly enough, as far as I can tell it seems that the PAAS company has managed to survive for that long on their Easter egg dye kits alone (do one thing and do it well, I guess.)  Since this presumably gives them roughly 11 months out of the year to come up with new stuff, the traditional kits have now been joined by a rather impressive array of other color kits.  As you see, their current selections have got both the hippies and the establishment covered.

If you don’t want to go through all that hassle to assemble the baskets and hide eggs for the kids, there’s always the pre-packaged Easter basket option.  A large number of these baskets are seen inexplicably located in the frozen foods aisle of the local grocery store.

Sure enough, it doesn’t take much searching to find one of these things loaded with some licensed character or another.  It is Easter, and there is a bunny in this one, but somehow I don’t think this is quite what most people have in mind here.

Oddly enough, in spite of the other items we have seen above, gratuitous use of licensed characters seems to be the exception rather than the rule when it comes to these pre-assembled Easter baskets.  Most of the ones you’ll find on the shelf of any given store around here come filled up mostly with generic plastic toys of presumably East Asian origin.  This one contains a number of squirt guns, which I suspect will probably lead to one or more unfortunate incidents during the Easter egg hunt.

Of course, no Easter would be complete without the Easter Bunny.  If you haven’t had the time to go visit him at the mall this year, you can plenty of different ways to welcome the egg-bearing Lagomorph into your home in chocolate effigy.  As you can see, the Bunny has embraced today’s active lifestyle in a big way, even if he hasn’t upgraded his headphones or Walkman since sometime in the late Eighties.

If you’re looking for something a little more modern, why not try one of these hip-hop hippity-hoppers?  I suspect that it’s probably a lot harder to do bling in chocolate than these people would care to admit, so they’re using candy necklaces instead. 

Elsewhere on the shelf , it seems that there’s been a mix-up at the chocolate bunny factory, and a number of bunnies have found themselves in inadequate packaging.  On the left, we’ve got Bunny Big Foot, whose feet are protruding from the front of the box, and on the right we have Too Tall Bunny, who is apparently too tall for his box… or is he?

Based on this angle, I’d have to say that Too Tall Bunny needs to go have a nice little chat with the people down in the packaging department. 

Oddly enough,  they seemed to have no trouble at all getting Bunny Big Ears to fit into a box without any extraneous protrusions.  Even so, in the spirit of inclusiveness, is it really such a great idea to be highlighting all of these bunnies’ physical deformities like this?  Oddly enough, chocolate bunnies seem to be the one thing on the shelves that they haven’t plastered in cartoon characters just yet, but that may be because most of the ones available for sale these days are either too generic to warrant mention here, or they’re made by one particular company that just hasn’t gotten around to it yet.

 

There are some people that prefer their sugary rabbit snacks in a different form, and for those people that usually means Peeps.  Although the sugar-coated marshmallows seem to have snuck into just about every holiday they possibly can these days, they’re still associated primarily with Easter.  So much so, in fact, that they have been immortalized in plush form, as shown here.  These actually bear a surprisingly close resemblance to the actual product which leads me to wonder:  If you accidentally ate one of these things, how long would it take you to notice that it was made of polyester instead of marshmallow? 

 I could go on with plenty more examples of this stuff, but I think this should cover things pretty well.  In general, a lot of the Easter merchandise out there still sticks to the traditional norms for the holiday, but there’s also plenty of this stuff out there as well.  As I’ve noted previously, there also seems to be a convergence of holidays going on, to the point that people are trying to sell merchandise for Easter that looks suspiciously like the Christmas stuff, and a fair bit of the traditional Easter stuff has started to encroach on Halloween as well.  At this rate, it seems to be there will be some unspecified point in the future when they’re trying to sell basically the same merchandise for pretty much every holiday out there, with changes only in theming and color palettes.  In the meantime, have a happy Easter, and don’t get yourself too lost trying to find the Rotten Egg before it actually becomes rotten.

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