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How The World Wags

"Onward Christian Soldiers?"
By Dave Kiffer

March 27, 2005

Ketchikan, Alaska - I guess I must have missed another memo.

I missed the memo that apparently stated: Easter is an important holiday, for goodness sake! Buy lots of stuff for other people.

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Yes, I know that buying stuff always been the true "meaning" of Christmas but when did Easter become such an important economic engine treasured by retailers everywhere? Have you seen the aisles and aisles and aisles of merchandise in our local stores that will be out of date by Sunday?

Sure, I understand Easter eggs and candy. That was a tradition in the early Pleistocene era when I was a child. Even back then Easter was a big time of the year for the folks who made that funky, plastic "Easter grass." I even remember that we often bought Easter lilies to give to whomever was hosting Easter dinner. And of course it was a big weekend for the grocery stores.

In some parts of the country it was also a tradition to buy new clothes for the children for Easter festivities, but here it was usually too danged hard to find just the right sou'wester "bonnet" for parading down Main Street.

I just want to know when it became expected that we would start buying all these toys! I'm not talking about the cute little orange, carrot shaped baseball bats (the Easter bunny, get it?) or the million and one different stuffed bunnies all lined up. I'm talking about the $20 three or four feet high Easter baskets that are chocked full of all sorts of stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with Easter. Soccer balls, fireman hats, plastic jewelry?

In wandering one of the basket aisles this week, I was astounded at the range of interests that the retailers hoped to tap into. One Easter basket featured a plastic auto mechanic set for the young NASCAR fan (Easter and Earnhardt. There's a stretch!). Another featured a bunch of arts supplies including something called "graffiti" chalk. It's good to know that Jesus could have just scrawled something pithy on the temple walls rather than going to all the trouble to actually toss the money changers out.

Then there was the endless variation on "Princess" stuff. Tiaras, beads, faux pearls, makeup kits. Far be it from me to leap to a conclusion (boing, boing, boing) but wouldn't it be nice to have reached a point in our society when young girls had more varied role models than Cinderella? Oh, my mistake, the NASCAR auto mechanic set WAS intended for the little girls!

Naturally, there were also Barbie-type doll sets in the baskets as well. They weren't actual Barbies (insert trademark infringement here!) but they looked close enough for one to get the right idea. Of course, they came with make up kits and lots of cool clothes. No "rocket scientist" Barbie for these youngsters.

It was gratifying to see all the "fireman" related toys in the baskets. Since 9/11, there has been a greater appreciation for firemen and police officers and any time we can give children role models that don't involve mutant ninjas or power rangers, it's okay by me.

Speaking of which, the concentration on firefighters is apparently at the expense of another type of hero that was popular in these baskets just before 9/11, the soldier. I can hear you snorting already. Soldiers? Weapons? These are Easter baskets. We're talking about the "Prince of Peace" here!

A few years ago, I was walking by a row of the baskets at one of the stores, when something caught my eye. In the basket was a camouflage-colored soldier helmet. I stopped and examined the basket. It also contained a package of "army men." It had a battery-operated tank. And a plastic pistol. It also had some GI Joe bubblegum. And some plastic hand grenades.

Onward Christian Soldiers indeed.

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Dave Kiffer ©2005

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