Way Off The Bunny Trail: Obscure Facts About Easter

  • April 11, 2017
  • Jenna Maxwell

This Sunday, April 16 is Easter. Easter is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in the United States. Easter has obvious religious significance to Christians, as it is the holiday that commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ and culminates Lent. Easter is also a secular holiday that is enjoyed by the masses. This year it is reported that about 88% of parents in the US will likely assemble Easter baskets for their children. In spite of the popularity of Easter, we're betting that there are a few things about Easter that you just didn't know.

Early Easter: You may be shocked to know that Easter may not have its origins in Christianity at all. There is some evidence that the earliest Christians adopted some of the rituals and traditions of Easter from a pagan festival that honored the goddess Eostre. Eostre was the Anglo-Saxon goddess of fertility, new life, and springtime. Each year during the time of the Vernal Equinox, celebrations to honor Eostre were held in local villages. For these folks, Eostre was closely associated with the rabbit because of the hare's wild reputation for extreme fertility. It's possible that this old connection to the rabbit may have been an early nod to what we now know as the Easter Bunny.

Easter Bunny, Move Over! The Easter Bunny was likely a tradition brought to America by Protestant German immigrants when they made their way into Pennsylvania during the early days of our new country. What you may not know is that in Europe today, Easter is celebrated with a wide variety of animal creatures bringing Easter treats to children. In Switzerland, a cuckoo bird brings Easter Eggs in baskets to children, while in Germany and other parts of Europe you might hear about an Easter Fox, Chick, Rooster or even a Stork!

Eggsposed: Eggs have a clear connection to springtime, new life, and fertility, which has a lot to do with why these things are an integral part of Easter symbolism, and the celebrating that happens on this traditional holiday. There may be another more practical reason, however, as to why eggs are an Easter standby. For centuries, Christian churches banned eggs during Lent, along with meat, cheese, wine, and milk. When Lent ended, so did the ban on eggs. Thus on Easter, it was appropriate to eat eggs again--apparently with robust eggs-citement.

Egg Decorating: Putting on the Glitz! In the late 19th century Russia, Czar Alexander III commissioned a goldsmith-jeweler-artist named Peter Carl Faberge to create elaborate gold and jewel-encrusted eggs to give to his wife as an Easter gift. The Czar was quite the trendsetter because after this it became all the rage amongst royalty and high society to exchange elaborate and outrageously expensive eggs as Easter gifts.

Candy, Candy, Candy! More candy is purchased for Easter than any other holiday aside from Halloween. Candy makers in the United States will make over 90 million chocolate Easter bunnies and 16 billion jellybeans each year for Easter. Jelly beans have been around since the 17th century but didn't become an Easter candy until the 1930's. Candy stores and confectioners couldn't help but notice that jellybeans had a strong resemblance to eggs and so it just made sense to start marketing them as an Easter Candy. Jellybeans are now one of the most the most popular Easter candies of all!

Hop, Hop, Hooray! Now that you have all the fun facts about Easter, for peep's sake, go out and make it a great "hare" day. Happy Easter from the Easter Eggs-perts at Halloween Express!

The Year of the Superhero

  • April 11, 2017
  • Jenna Maxwell

Are you crazy about superheroes? If superheroes are your passion, give a shout out to 2017 because this is your year for movies. When it comes to action-packed, excitement filled superhero-featured films, 2017 has a whole plethora of new movies for superhero fans to fall in love with. At your local theater this year there will be superhero movies a-plenty featuring both original material and lots and lots of sequels, once again rebooting your favorite heroes in a whole slew of brand new thrilling adventures. Are you ready for some serious entertainment? Here's some of what you have coming.

Movies to Marvel. Last year was a huge year for Marvel Comics at the box office, and this year promises to be even bigger. With "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" and "Thor: Ragnarok" soon hitting the big screen, the Disney/Marvel Studios team could prove to be very lucrative as it dominates the list of summer movie blockbusters.

As if that wasn't enough excitement, come mid-summer Sony will release its third incarnation of Marvel's famous Spiderman with the release of "Spiderman: Homecoming." Already showing in theaters is "Logan," the latest film featuring a Marvel character (and one of our personal favorites) the Wolverine. "Logan" is rumored to be the Wolverine's last solo appearance, so you don't want to miss this show!

DC to See. Never to be outdone, DC Comics and Warner Brothers will be releasing their own exciting batch of superhero adventures to this summer's movie audiences. Wonder Woman will be featured doing her thing in "Wonder Woman, " and then you can look forward to seeing her again this fall with some of her epic superhero cohorts in "Justice League," directed by Zack Snyder.

The Justice League, comprised of Superman, Batman, Aquaman, The Flash, Cyborg and Wonder Woman will attempt to save the planet from imminent destruction in what promises to be the ultimate superhero-fest. Already showing in theaters is the not-to-miss "Lego Batman Movie." Combining hilarious wisecracks, adventure and some pretty silly blunders with the morphing of all the best Batman characters into toy bricks, this wild misadventure is one both adults and kids will love

If you are thinking what we are thinking, you will have to agree. When it comes to superhero movies, this year has a lot of amazing stuff coming with movies filled with fun, originality and spectacle on the horizon. While you are heading to your local theater, we're busy stockpiling the latest versions of all your favorite superhero costumes. When you're ready to get into your favorite character, we're ready to help you dress the part.

What We Love About Spring

  • April 07, 2017
  • Jenna Maxwell

Spring is finally here! After a long, harsh winter that wreaked havoc across the nation, the country is finally ready to start warming up. Signs of spring are everywhere, and along with the warm weather, spring brings with it plenty of its own virtues. Here's what we love about spring!

Weather. This winter has been a doozy. After enduring a long, bitterly cold amd wet, snowy season we are all ready for a warm up--the sooner, the better! Certainly, the advent of springtime weather is welcome. Warmer weather not only provides a psychological boost but also is decidedly energizing.

Longer Days. The loss of an hour as we turn our clocks forward in the spring almost goes unnoticed because most people are so excited about the onset of longer days that the price paid for losing one hour is a well worth the sacrifice.

Spring Break. After a long winter, spring break provides welcome relief to students and many families. With school out of session, this is the perfect time for many families to find ways to reconnect as they temporarily abandon their usual routines and embrace a more relaxed schedule.

Baby Animals Everywhere! Depending on where you live, your local wildlife increases its population massively during the springtime months. Baby calves, lambs, chicks, and bunnies are born. Birds are nesting and laying eggs. Other animals that have been hibernating all winter are now awake and alive with activity.

Easter. Easter is the most popular and widely celebrated holiday of the spring. Although Easter is a religious holiday, many folks enjoy celebrating it on a secular basis because of the many fun traditions that surround the holiday. Some of the most popular Easter activities include Easter egg hunts, dyeing hard-boiled Easter Eggs and receiving gifts of jellybeans and chocolate from the Easter Bunny.

The World is Ablaze with Color. In the spring, the local landscapes change from brown, gray and white to various shades of green. As the flowers bloom, vibrant hues pop up everywhere! When the sun finally comes out the sky appears to be a brilliant cerulean blue. If it feels like the whole world has changed from black and white to Technicolor--because, in a way, it has!

Movies. Moviemakers are no dummies. Spring break is the perfect time to see a great new movie, and there will be many exciting new blockbuster films in theaters this spring that you will not want to miss. Our Spring Break movie picks include:

Beauty and the Beast
Power Rangers
The Fate of the Furious
The Boss Baby
Kong Skull Island

We've waited for it and endured a lot of winter in the process. Let the countdown to warmer weather begin as you get excited about the spring!

Life Lessons from Beauty and the Beast's Belle

  • March 20, 2017
  • Jenna Maxwell

The 1991 Disney animated classic, "Beauty and the Beast" has been reinvented and was just released as a new live action fantasy musical on Friday March 17. This latest adaptation of the classic Beauty and the Beast story features and all-star cast as well as an expanded storyline that features an empowered version of one of our favorite Disney princesses, Belle. Of course we're fans of the Beauty and the Beast costume characters. There are many facets of our beloved heroine that we not only love but can also learn from, in fact, we think Belle teaches us a lot about life.

Don't Be Afraid to be Different. In Belle's provincial, old-fashioned village she receives a lot of harsh judgment from her fellow townspeople. Belle is imaginative, inventive, and an avid reader with a huge imagination. Unfortunately in her world, some of these qualities aren't necessarily the norm and some of the stodgier, more traditional types look down their nose at feisty Belle who seems light years ahead of her time. The beauty of Belle is that in spite of the local naysayers, she embraces her differences and recognizes them as her strengths. Belle knows full well that there is nothing wrong with being smart!

See Beyond our Differences. Belle is used to being different than the other girls in her town, so perhaps this is why she has a natural ability to withhold judgment on the Beast when she first encounters him. Belle teaches us to look past a person's exterior and avoid initial, premature judgments. Belle's ability to see beyond the Beast's monstrous and frightening exterior allows her to see who he really is inside. Her intelligence and love of books gives Belle something in which to find a special connection with the heart of the Beast, thus demonstrating the importance of looking for the best in people.

Live Outside the Box. Because of her love for books and learning Belle recognizes that there is a great big world out there and wants to see it all. Belle is also a very open minded person which eventually allows her to form a deep friendship with her captor, the Beast. Belle speaks often about seeking adventure and seeing the world. "I want adventure in the great wide somewhere. I want it more than I can tell." When she first meets the Beast she probably thinks this is a little more endangerment than she really had banked on--but Belle is nonetheless ready to take on the experience.

Hold Onto Your Values. The true beauty of Belle is how well she knows herself. In spite of harsh judgment and peer pressures, she stays true to herself and follows her heart. Look what happens when she encounters the buffoon, Gaston. She immediately shuts him down because she recognizes his sexist boorishness and lack of intelligence. The Beast, however, has a depth and sensitivity that Belle can appreciate. When Gaston becomes enraged and comes after the Beast, calling him a monster, Belle exclaims one of her more profound lines." He's no monster Gaston, you are!"

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade. When Belle became a captive of the Beast, at first glance the situation seems dire. Belle quickly makes the best of the situation by trying to reach out to the monster and form a connection with him. What on first glance looked like the worst possible circumstance, eventually turns into an amazing opportunity. The Power of Love. Gaston and other villagers hated the Beast and even wanted to kill him. Belle staunchly defends her new friend and ultimately, it is the love Belle has for the Beast that saves him.

Believe in Miracles. Hope is what keeps both the Beast as well as Belle going, even when the situation seem completely hopeless. In the end, the Beast get the miracle he has long awaited, and so does Belle because the lovely friendship she has formed with the Beast is now miraculously transformed in the most stunning way by the power of true love.

Here's a link to view the Beauty and the Beast US Official Trailer

The Shocking Truth about St. Patrick's Day

  • March 14, 2017
  • Jenna Maxwell

This Friday, March 17, 2017 is St. Patrick's Day. You may think you know a lot about St. Patrick's Day, but not so fast! There are a few details about St. Patrick's Day that you probably didn't know, some of which may even surprise you!

Surprise, surprise--St. Patrick was not Irish. In fact, St. Patrick wasn't even named Patrick. St. Patrick was christened Maewyn Succat and was born someplace in England.

St. Patrick did not wear green. The wearin' o the BLUE may sound all wrong--but it actually may be a bit more accurate when it comes to the patron saint. Blue was the preferred wardrobe color for all of St. Patrick's robes and vestments.

Drinking on St. Patrick's Day used to be banned. Although in our current day, St. Patrick's Day is well known for celebratory drinking, believe it or not from 1903-1970, St. Patrick's Day was considered a religious holiday in Ireland, and for that reason, all pubs were closed!

Corned Beef and Cabbage is actually about as Irish as macaroni and cheese. Favorite Irish foods include traditional fare like Irish bacon, lamb, and soda bread and of course, Irish stew. The tradition of corned beef and cabbage likely came from Irish immigrants who had to make do with what food was available to them once they arrived in the United States. No, Shamrock Shakes aren't typical Irish food, either!

There's a good reason for all that St. Patrick's Day drinking! St. Patrick's Day falls during Lent, the six-week period of prayer and fasting observed by many Catholics. On St. Patrick's Day, the eating and drinking restrictions of Lent were put on hold temporarily. Thus St. Paddy's day became a celebration much like Fat Tuesday, with much eating, drinking and lots of merrymaking. On an average day in the US approximate 5.5 million pints of Guinness are consumed. On St. Patrick's Day, nearly 3 x that many pints are gleefully downed! Cheers!

Believe it or not, as popular as the shamrock is, it is not the officially sanctioned symbol of Ireland. This honor actually belongs to a musical instrument--the harp.

There are many more people of Irish descent living in the United States than there are in Ireland! Over 34 million people of Irish ancestry live in the US compared with the 4.5 million people that live in Ireland.

St. Patrick's Day celebrations in the US started during the 18-century, led by persecuted Irish immigrants who not only wanted to celebrate but desperately wanted to try and hold onto some of their Irish customs.

St. Patrick was absolutely not a snake exterminator although if you listen to ancient Irish lore, you may think otherwise. The truth is that weather conditions on the Emerald Isle make snake existence virtually impossible. Thus there have never been any snakes living there at all. The legend of St. Patrick driving the snakes from Ireland is nothing more than a myth.

In his youth, St. Patrick was a slave. Kidnapped at age 16, St. Patrick was forced to take care of flocks of sheep until he escaped, after ten years of being held in captivity. St. Patrick went back to England where he hid out in a monastery. St. Patrick eventually became a priest, changed his name to Patricius and believe it or not, it then became his ultimate desire to return to Ireland to preach Christianity to the Irish people.

There are no girl leprechauns. Sorry, PC crowd, the leprechaun gig is for men only.

Shamrocks were initially considered to be a religious symbol. It is thought that St. Patrick used the 3-leaved shamrock to teach his parishioners about the Holy Trinity.

Now might be an excellent time to learn some basic Irish lingo. For example, what the heck is the meaning of the famous Irish phrase, "Erin Go Bragh?" Do you want to brush up on some St. Paddy's day jargon? Check out our posting on St. Patrick's Day terminology.

And now for what could arguably the best Irish news of all! Did you know that the world's best holiday, Halloween, came from Ireland? Modern day Halloween most likely stems from the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain. Thus it seems appropriate that in honor of upcoming St. Patrick's Day we would write a Halloween themed Irish Limerick.

There once was a monster of doom
Who invited a ghoul to his room.
They had a large fight
That went late into night-
Just who should be frightened of whom?

Perhaps we should stick to our day job.

Happy St. Patrick's Day from your friends at Halloween Express!