By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist
It’s the Edmonds Egg Hunt. No, organizers did not forget to add a word — Easter.
“We just want to respect all of our community,” said Tammy Rankins, recreation coordinator for Edmonds Parks, Recreation &Cultural Services. “No matter what my religious belief is, we want to be aware of who’s making up our community. We are definitely not all Christians.”
She doesn’t see skipping Easter in describing an egg hunt as “anti-Christian.”
More than 1,000 people are expected at the Edmonds event, set for 10 a.m. Saturday at the Frances Anderson Center field, 700 Main St.
Edmonds isn’t the first place to have an egg hunt without acknowledging Easter. Last year, a blogger in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y., wrote about that community’s Spring Egg Hunt, even adding “not to be confused with the Easter Egg Hunt.” Bill O’Reilly, host of Fox TV’s “The O’Reilly Factor,” has updated what he earlier called a “war on Christmas,” saying Thursday that a “war on Judeo-Christian tradition” is back for the Easter season.
Marysville is one of several area cities following tradition, calling its public event the Marysville Parks Easter Egg Hunt.
“Ours has always been an Easter egg hunt. It’s affiliated with the Easter season,” Marysville Parks and Recreation Director Jim Ballew said Tuesday. “In 25 years we’ve never had a complaint about the affiliation with Easter,” he said.
That’s not the case in Edmonds, Rankins said. She said that last year someone complained about the city being involved in an egg hunt at all. Edmonds has hosted a community egg hunt for decades, she said.
“We hear the same debate with Christmas, with happy holidays and winter break,” said Jerry Schiffelbein, president of Humanists of Washington. He doesn’t mind Easter egg hunts or Christmas trees in public places, but said the group would take issue with a religious display in a park. Easter and Christmas, he said, are secular as well as religious celebrations.
Marysville’s egg hunt is at 10 a.m. Saturday in Jennings Memorial Park, 6915 Armar Road. Like the Edmonds hunt on public land, it happens thanks to private donors. At both the Edmonds and Marysville egg hunts, which are free, participants are encouraged to bring nonperishable food to be donated to their communities’ food banks.
Steve Fulton, owner of a State Farm Insurance business at Smokey Point, has been the Marysville egg hunt’s primary sponsor for about seven years. He was amazed the first year he went to the hunt and saw thousands of kids and families. “It was a blast,” he said.
Since then, Fulton said, the egg hunt has become a venue for encouraging people to grow “giving gardens” that can provide the Marysville Food Bank with fresh produce come summertime. “It’s a very significant community event,” he said.
Describing himself as an evangelical Christian, Fulton said that Easter eggs, like Christmas trees, are borrowed from pagan traditions. Taking Easter out of the celebration is “a shame,” he said.
“Sometimes we hide special events behind the curtain, with everybody’s beliefs in mind,” said Ballew, adding that he has seen that with Halloween in schools.
And while Everett welcomed the 2012 December holidays with a public event called Wintertide, Marysville held its annual Merrysville for the Holidays, with a parade and photo opportunities with Santa.
Bill Toskey is an Edmonds Rotary member involved with that city’s egg hunt. About the word Easter, Toskey said “the Rotary Club does not have an official position.” Personally, he sees no harm in calling it an Easter egg hunt. His family didn’t go to church when he was a boy, Toskey said, “yet my mother had Easter egg hunts and baskets.”
This year, his club is donating baskets for families helped by YWCA Seattle-King-Snohomish. At the agency’s request, he said, they are “spring baskets.”
Why should cities be involved in egg hunts at all?
“Events bring people out. You’re meeting your neighbors. It creates the community,” Rankins said. Michael Stevens, a Marysville City Council member, agrees. “These are the events that I really love in Marysville and other small communities,” Stevens said. “It’s participation at will. We at the city are not pushing any message.”
Stevens did state the obvious, that “Easter hunts came as a result of the Easter holiday.”
“Why ignore that?” he said. In Edmonds, the answer is about respecting others. It’s not chocolate, but it is food for thought.
UPDATE: The City of Edmonds released this statement this afternoon and asked that it be posted: The City of Edmonds is excited to be working with various sponsors to provide an Edmonds Egg Hunt for this community on March 30, 10:00 am, Frances Anderson Center Field. This event has been happening for the past 30+ years at City Park. This year, due to popularity, we changed the venue to the Frances Anderson Center field. The City, in the spirit of being inclusive of all of our citizens, decided to name this event the Edmonds Egg Hunt in the year 2000, and is not new for this community. We have received no complaints about this until this year following a recent Everett Herald news article. The removal of specific religious references is common throughout many cities recreation departments, schools, and other government agencies. We want to recognize and welcome all citizens to our events, regardless of faith.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.