When I was growing up, my grandmother would regale me with horrifying stories about the live baby chicks people used to stuff inside Easter baskets when she was girl in Pittsburgh in the (otherwise roaring) '20s. The lil' baby birds would be the center of attention for all of Easter morning, till the kids' attention turned faster than Jesus flipping a table full of money changers at the neighborhood temple. Naturally, the results weren't that great, as baby chicks are known to grow into adult chickens. Yikes.
It was a problem. But my parents, in their infinite boomer wisdom, decided to forgo livestock in my Easter baskets, and simply load them with delicious high fructose seasonal candy magic. And look at me! I grew up to be just... fine... I guess. But of course, some Easter candy is decidedly better than others. There's the cream of the springtime crop, and some obvious basket-filler.
Here is the definitive ranking of all the candy your parents, legal guardians, or kind strangers used to put in your Easter basket. I hope it brings you some nostalgic joy. Or maybe nostalgic hate? It really depends on how much white chocolate your parents used to stuff in your basket, really.
White chocolate is Monday, in candy form. It is the tag on the back of your shirt that insufferably scratches your neck all day. It's the pebble in the sole of your boot. It's the gnawing sliver of eternal doubt that hits you when you are 7 years old, and you learn your old pal the Easter bunny may be nothing but a lie propagated by your parents. As is quoted in the Book of Revelations, "And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and 10 horns, and upon his horns 10 crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. And in the beasts hands was held the most unholy abomination to ever scar this earth: White Chocolate." OK, that last part may have been my own addition. But I really hate white chocolate. And so should you.
I was never totally sure what these are technically called. When we were younger, my brother and I called them "malty boys," and they were generally recognized as being basic Easter basket filler. They coated your mouth with a bad taste that would often last till school was back in session, and I feel like they are exclusively relegated to Easter for a good reason. Still, I'd rather eat 100 of them than one bite of white chocolate. Obviously.
In my mind, the Cadbury egg is the Easter equivalent of Dr. Who: It's kind of quirky, definitely British, and I have no idea why people are so in love with it/them. Yet another egg-shaped entry in the pantheon of Easter snacks, the Cadbury egg certainly has a cult-like following. And yeah... I can't figure it out. And frankly, I'm not sure I care.
Perhaps more than any other Easter-focused candy, jelly beans truly capture the spirit of the day. They are bright. They are light. They are festive. And they will make you feel a little bit queasy after like, 10 minutes. That being said, I have a confession that I've kept buried deep inside the guiltiest parts of my psyche, all this time: jelly beans are just OK. They are spectacularly mediocre. And frankly, I can only do a few handfuls per year. Sorry, Mom. Sorry, Dad. Sorry, Ronald Reagan. Sorry to everyone.
A true Easter pro tip: Size does matter in the case of Cadbury Eggs, as these little, lesser-known superstars eschew the off-putting (in my opinion!) cream of their pumped up brethren and instead go full-on chocolate. They taste like giant M&M's. This is the point of the list where we switch over from filler to killer. So get ready for the good stuff.
Hear me out here. I know people hate Peeps. I realize that they -- undoubtedly -- are the most maligned of all Easter fare. People despise them. Just look at the Peep-focused furor bleeding through the corners of the internet (though some of these people here are talking about their friends in mid-90s slang). But here's the thing: Peeps are but a once-per-year treat. And for this brief, bright timeframe, I can certainly stomach their brightly colored, marshmallowy, whimsical gooeyness... and their cold, black eyes. And plus, they blow up like parade floats when you put them in the microwave. Which is always cool as heck, no matter how old you are.
Though Easter has always been primarily an egg-shaped, chocolate realm, no basket was every fully complete without a choice selection from the gummy zone. Whether it was worms, bears, blobs, or any other assorted shape, the palate-cleansing gummy was exactly what one needed when washing the taste of malty boys out of your mouth.
Ah Reese's -- America's candy sweetheart. You can roll through nearly any Easter basket scenario in the United States, and more often than not, the Reese's is the most popular item, the Holy Grail. And I get it. They are delicious and wholly unoffensive. But therein lies the problem: they are too obvious. Too basic. Furthermore, they are just regular Reese's with a seasonal skin. No, in order to claim the top spot on this ranking, we need a candy that not only fits the mold, but sets the mold.
Expected? Maybe. But the right choices usually are. The chocolate bunny is an exclusively Easter tradition: delicious, creamy, succulent milk chocolate, molded like a chocolate bunny, the symbol of the fun part of Easter. For the most part, the chocolate bunnies in your basket are hollow. And while these are good... of course, we have to consider them to be "1B," at best. Because...
1A. Giant chocolate bunnies (thick, full, and totally solid)
The true hero of Easter (besides the Bunny and Jesus, obviously) are chocolate bunnies that are solid the whole way through. This entry takes the traditional chocolate bunny mold, and fills in ALL the spaces. As a kid, getting a totally solid chocolate bunny in your basket was the equivalent of landing a free Nintendo 64 that was also stuffed with Pogs and Creepy Crawlers. This was the centerpiece of your basket. The shining center of your holiday. Your reward for sitting through church and wearing those awful suspenders your mom insisted made you look like a "little grown-up." It is truly what I miss most about childhood. Aside from not paying bills. And having an eternal well of hopeful optimism. And also gym class dodgeball. Well, at the very least, it's definitely one of the things I miss most from childhood. So take a moment to salute your parents for bringing this joy into your life, even if they did nothing else. And remember one thing, kids: You always bite the ears off first. No matter what.
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Wil Fulton is a staff writer for Thrillist. If you told him he could only eat one food for the rest of his life, he'd be frightened and confused. Follow him: @wilfulton.