- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 23, 2008

The sunrise service, the ribboned chapeau, the fancy bonbons: Such beloved Easter traditions are alive and well around America today, though tempered with a few cautionary tales from well-meaning scolds.

Buy “green” chocolate. Recycle that Easter basket grass. Don’t touch the baby chicks, kids, they’ve got salmonella.

And beware of the bunny.

Still, it’s the moment when sunbeams cross the Potomac River that most concerns the Rev. Amos Dodge.

At dawn, he will lead some 5,000 faithful in a worship service by the Lincoln Memorial — just as he has done every Easter since 1979, when a small band of believers gathered there to sing “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.”

Pastor of the Capital Church in Vienna, Va., Mr. Dodge has grown immensely fond of his burgeoning Easter flock, who show up in their Sunday best, not to mention jeans and jogging suits. This year, he has recommended people tote blankets on what portends to be a chilly morning.

“This is not an event we sponsor, but an assignment we have for our city, nation and world — to joyfully, powerfully and boldly proclaim that Jesus Christ is risen,” Mr. Dodge says.

Froufrou and silk flowers are paramount elsewhere.

“Even in these troubled times, a girl can never outgrow her need for a pretty hat. I’ve got 20 myself,” says Becky Orr of Virginia City, Nev.

She will be strolling in the town’s official Easter Bonnet Parade today — an annual event that showcases splendid headgear.

“This kind of custom, well, it’s never going to go away — though sometimes you never know what you’re going to see in this parade,” she adds.

Easter also has grown an eco-conscience.

Cadbury — makers of the famously extravagant candy egg — has introduced a line of minimally packaged “eco-eggs” this year that use 75 percent less plastic and cardboard, saving 2,000 trees, according to the company’s calculations.

Chocolate-maker Nestle offers goodies wrapped in recycled paper, touting the fact they buy their cocoa from growers employing sustainable farming practices.

This year, Los Angeles-based environmental consultant Olivia Galeski recommended “re-purposed baskets” from the thrift store, real lawn grass and eggs dyed naturally with onion skins, grape juice or turmeric in the Easter basket.

San Francisco craft maven Victoria Everman advised globally inclined fashionistas to don a “sustainable” bonnet today, preferably made from organic hemp or recycled wool, cotton or linen.

Hazards lurk, meanwhile.

The proverbial Easter egg hunt could be fraught with danger: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center is warning parents that colored eggs are not “food-safe” and subject to “contamination” from animals or lawn chemicals.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a warning to parents that the soft down of baby chicks and ducks harbor salmonella and, therefore, could be dangerous to small children, pregnant women and the elderly.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture recommends against live rabbits, noting they are not “greeting-card stereotypes” but actually “kick, struggle, scratch or bite.”

The House Rabbit Society — a California-based rabbit-rescue group — only approves of chocolate bunnies, advising that the twitching, hopping version is “not a toy.”

“He’s a 10-year commitment,” the society noted.

Pets also are subject to Easter risks. The American Veterinary Medical Association warns pet owners that chocolate is poisonous to dogs and cats, and the holiday ham can cause canine pancreatitis.

And hide the Easter basket. “Cats love fake grass,” says veterinarian Gregory Hammer, the group’s president.

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