The most difficult search this Easter has nothing to do with hidden eggs. As a Christian mom, I struggle to teach my children the meaning behind our Easter traditions. I get so wrapped up in the shopping, meal planning and decorating that I often fail to focus beyond the chocolate bunnies and egg hunts.
It's not that I don't try to combat the commercialism with doses of spiritual teaching. I read the story of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection to my sons on Good Friday. My son Eli is six now and has been asking a lot of questions about Easter this year. I hope that going to church this morning will help clarify some of his ideas.
But his focus is the same as most children today. When I asked my kids to write about their favorite thing about Easter, only one thing came to mind: candy. Eli dictated the following tribute to pastel marshmallow birds.
"Peeps are my favorite candy because they are soft on the inside. They have fake eyes and their tails are so soft. I like blue bird Peeps best. I like yellow Peeps. I like all Peeps. And I like picking up Easter eggs."
Eli's Easter is all about the candy. I've never shared his passion for Peeps. If I'm going to waste calories on sugar, I want some chocolate attached. But I might have to hit the post-Easter clearance racks and try the recipe on the Peeps Web site for chocolate-dipped frozen Peepsicles. They looked quite delicious.
There are many other interesting things on www.marshmallowpeeps.com. Over 70 million Peeps lined up beak-to-tail are needed to reach from New York City to Los Angeles. In 2007, 700 million were sold, enough to connect New York to L.A. 10 times. I'm pretty sure my Eli could eat his way there and back - no problem.
In the early 1950s, it took 27 hours to make one Peeps chick. Today it takes six minutes, and over two million are produced each day. Peeps have a shelf-life of 24 months, so you could buy next year's Peeps on clearance tomorrow and no one would ever know the difference.
I enjoy learning new things while researching answers for my children, such as why Easter came so early this year. You may already know the answer. Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox, which fell on March 20.
The date moves around on our Roman calendar because it's determined by the lunar calendar used to establish the date of Passover. And it can actually fall one day earlier, on March 22, but that is extremely rare.
If you can't recall ever celebrating Easter this early, it's because you haven't -unless you were born before 1913. And we'll never see Easter so early again in our lifetimes. It doesn't fall on March 23 again until 2228 - 220 years from now.
I learned a few other interesting facts about the holiday we're celebrating today. The word "Easter" is derived from the festival of Eostre, a celebration of the goddess of the dawn associated with springtime. She was symbolized by the rabbit, one of the most fertile animals and, therefore, a symbol of new life.
Throughout history, eggs have also been used as a symbol of fertility and new beginnings. Christians adopted this to represent our Savior's resurrection. The tradition of coloring eggs can be traced back to ancient times, when decorated eggs were given as gifts.
The Easter bunny was introduced to America by German settlers who arrived here in the 1700s. The children called him "Oschter Haws" and believed that if they were good, he would lay a nest of colored eggs for them. Never mind that the Easter bunny is traditionally male, and rabbits do not lay eggs.
Children would fill their caps or bonnets with straw, and hide them in a secluded place in the home or garden. Their joy at finding them filled with colored eggs on Easter morning was the start of our Easter basket tradition.
We used to make Easter baskets for our kids, but now that they're older, they beg their dad to send them on a scavenger hunt instead. My husband loves carrying on this tradition learned from his father, and the boys adore every minute of it, finding little trinkets on a hunt that leads them to the final prize of a big chocolate bunny. And then they devour those chocolate bunnies like 76 percent of the rest of us do - ears first.
I suppose what matters most at the end of the day is that we experienced what is good and pure about Easter - the joy, sense of renewal and the hope that fills the air at this time of year. And the candy just makes it all that much sweeter.
Kari Apted may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.