As large retailers zealously flog their chocolate-coated, rabbit-shaped, calorie-uncontrolled delicacies in preparation for this long weekend, the irreligious would be forgiven for thinking that Easter was in fact a celebration of the versatility of pastel colours. With over 80% of the population intent on celebrating Easter in some form or other, it’s little wonder retailers are reveling at the opportunity to cash in on this post-Christmas, pre-Winter, end-of-Lent celebration in all its sugar-coated glory.
With 90 million chocolate bunnies, 700 million marshmallow eggs and 16 billion jelly tots sold in the United States alone, Easter is now the largest confectionary holiday on the annual retail calendar. Producing enough jelly tots to circle the earth three times over, an average spend of R200 per person on candy-coated delights is anticipated this Easter. With prices starting at a mere R1 for the humble marshmallow egg, there appears to be little reason for an empty basket. In a world seemingly saturated with attention-deficit hyperactive children, retailers understand the marketing limitations when it comes to flogging sugar-fuelled Easter must-haves, which is why they have gradually mutated the Easter product offering to include everything from pink baskets, feathered accessories, pastel hats and an endless array of novelties with little regard for their utter irrelevance to the true meaning of Easter.
The Easter basket, for instance, originated in eighteenth-century Germany where woven baskets were used to transport seedlings to pagan temples so as to increase the chance of a good harvest. The idea of putting grass in the basket came from the Dutch tradition of celebrating the Easter hare, where children would create a nest for the hare to leave eggs. Through opportunistic marketing, the Easter basket – or in some instances, an Easter bag – now forms an integral part of our culture and a necessity for any child intent on a good haul this Sunday. Woolworths retails an Easter hunting bag for R99.95 or a hunting back-pack for R129.95 – an additional R30 for the pleasure of having both hands free for the big hunt. If you’re not content with the quality of your lawn grass, you can purchase Easter grass seed from Spots & Lady Bugs via Amazon.com for a mere R150 per packet. The seeds are guaranteed to grow within 10 days of planting to create the perfect landing for your eggs. For the more artistic hunter, PAAS retails egg-dying kits for anything between R30 and R140 depending on your chosen theme.
Eggs, having long been a symbol of life and re-birth in many cultures, were surprisingly incorporated into Easter celebrations for an entirely different reason. Originally forbidden during the traditional Catholic Lent, the masses celebrated the end of their period of abstinence by indulging in eggs. A few hundred years later and we’re still indulging unashamedly in eggs, albeit the less healthier, sugar-infused variety. From hollow, mass-produced eggs to ornately hand-crafted works of art by chocolatiers par excellence, the price of Easter eggs range from the easily affordable to prices that could make you choke on your chocolate.
Significantly outperformed by the Easter egg, the lowly hot cross bun consistently makes its annual appearance as if deliberately testing the retail industry’s capacity to innovate. Having pushed the creative envelope with the advent of the extra-spicy and chocolate-coated hot cross bun, one wonders of the future of this Easter icon whose origins are traditionally Christian, being a favourite treat during the period of Lent. Over-shadowed by Christmas, Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day, florists claim that Easter is the fourth most important event on the floral almanac, with lilies being the flowers of choice at an average price of R20 per stem. If accompanied by an Easter card at an average price of R25 per card, a simple Easter arrangement could set you back a couple of hundred Rand with ease.
From glow-in-the-dark eggs, chickens that lay jelly beans, dancing pink rabbits to home-grown Easter basket grass, it’s little wonder that Easter has become a retailer’s oasis. If you can imagine it, eat it or paint it pink, there are literally throngs of consumers happy to pay the price for pastel-painted paraphernalia in the name of a religious holiday. The true price of Easter has already been paid and, as with all good things in life, the gift of Easter is free for all.
Have a blessed Easter weekend!