- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 15, 2006

Easter Sunday is doing just fine, thank you.

Though shrill press reports and pundit caterwaul might indicate the planet is in complete disarray, there still are women arriving at church today in swell hats. There still are jelly beans, pastel eggs, stuffed bunnies with satin feet, little-bitty girls in organza dresses, soaring hymns, beribboned baskets, streusel coffeecake, cordial handshakes among the menfolk and fragrant lilies.

America manages to strike a gracious balance between that solemn “Amen” in the morning and the goofy “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” later in the day. We always have done that because we are at heart a nation of deep spirituality, inner mettle and good cheer — a splendid and stable combination.

Granted, it’s inevitable that somewhere, some stray, clueless town council gets its foundation undergarments in disarray because the word Easter is included in the town minutes or in a notice for a local parade or festival. It happens in December, too — when the word Christmas becomes the big no-no.

This year, officials in Alpharetta, Ga., attempted to announce a few timely public fetes in excruciating political correctness, advising residents there would be a “Children’s Egg Hunt” and a visit from “the Bunny.”

Yipes. Just imagine if that crew got loose in our cultural annals: Let’s all remember that legendary, Oscar-winning 1948 Hollywood favorite starring Fred Astaire and Judy Garland. Yes, of course. “The [deleted] Parade.” And look, Judy’s wearing her [deleted] bonnet.

Not to worry. There was much hubbub among the good citizens of Alpharetta, who took issue last week with the generic retooling of their festivities. There was a regular “imbroglio,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Assistant City Administrator Robbie Rokovitz jumped — or perhaps hopped — to restore the proper credentials.

“I can tell you we’re not going to have the spring bunny, the sun bunny, the tree bunny. We’re going to have the Easter bunny,” Mr. Rokovitz proclaimed.

So not to worry. Peace has been restored to Alpharetta.

And for the 28th year in a row, about 6,000 folks gathered at the Lincoln Memorial for an interdenominational Easter sunrise service, according to the Rev. Amos Dodge of the Capital Church in McLeanVirginia. Easter’s fine across the board. Very fine, in fact. Huge.

Not to be tacky, but by day’s end, the nation will have spent $12.6 billion on Easter celebrations, with 77 percent of us opting to celebrate the holiday, according to the National Retail Federation.

The National Confectioners Association reports that we’ll go through 90 million chocolate bunnies and 16 billion jelly beans today as well.

And rest assured, the charm of marshmallow Peeps is ever present. The chickies and bunnies have been Easter basket staples for more than 50 years; a billion were made this year. Peeps also seem to be taking over the entire culture as a comforting symbol of unchanging, unapologetic sweetness.

There could be worse things.

According to Just Born, the Pennsylvania-based manufacturer, the official Peeps Fan Club has 45,000 members. Several Peeps political and celebrity polls are afoot — Oprah Winfrey and Drew Carey are the stars who most look like Peeps, apparently — and the company has expanded the Peeps theme into toys, stationery, books, loungewear, hats, jewelry and even cosmetics.

“Peeps fans have an emotional attachment to the brand,” spokesman Matthew Pye explains.

Not to be outdone, Paas is as burgeoning as Peeps — Paas, as in egg dye. As a matter of record, Paas was not invented by a Mr. Paas, but rather one William Townley of Newark, N.J., in 1880. His startling dye in tablet form came in five colors, cost 5 cents and was mixed with white vinegar and water. He named his product after Passen, the Pennsylvania Dutch word for Easter.

These days, Americans use Paas kits to color 180 million eggs, but newfangled kits allow one to tie-dye, speckle, marble, glitter, splash, tattoo, wrap, bead and feather those eggs. There’s a glow-in-the-dark version; there’s a Batman-themed kit; and there’s computer software to create custom family emblems for shells.

Meanwhile, churches manage to bridge the gap between the spiritual and the nostalgic without much angst.

The Elevation Church of Matthews, N.C., perhaps staged the ultimate Easter egg hunt yesterday for the under-12 set. The Rev. Larry Brey hired a helicopter to hover above a Christian academy and jettison 50,000 unbreakable eggs upon the school’s football field.

The Life Christian Church of White Lake, Mich., is staging a humongous hunt today, with thousands of eggs tucked away — according to age group — for local youngsters, who also get some “faith-building lessons” beforehand.

“Easter Sunday, we celebrate what Jesus did for us, and the fact that he is alive and lives in us. The hunt is just another opportunity for us to celebrate life together,” the Rev. David Dryer told the Observer, a local newspaper.

Jennifer Harper covers media, politics and giant flowered hats for The Washington Times’ national desk. Reach her at 202/636-3085 or jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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