It’s not Easter without that little plastic egg filled with change.

Betsy (right) with her younger sisters
Courtesy of Betsy Cribb

When we were growing up, Easter morning came with a teeny bit of agony for my two little sisters and me. Before we could go to the living room to see if the Easter Bunny had hopped by our house, the three of us would be forced to sit at the top of the stairs, where we’d wait, impatient and antsy, as my dad led us through a sort of call-and-response, which he filmed on his bulky ‘90s video camera. He’d ask, “What’s the most important thing about Easter?” And we’d yell, convinced our enthusiasm would get us to our goodie-filled baskets sooner, “Jesus is ALIVE!”

We’d be released from our perch and fly down the stairs into the living room, where we’d find our sweetgrass Easter baskets filled to the brim with pastel candies and sunscreen and nail polish. Our Easter Bunny was a pretty generous guy, but he, like my parents, didn’t want us to forget the meaning of the holiday as we ate Reese’s eggs for breakfast.

While the other items in our baskets changed over the years, there was one thing that made an appearance every single year: A plastic egg marked in Sharpie with a small cross. When you shook them, they’d sound like clunky maracas; they were filled with loose change. The first year, I’m sure my sisters and I thought our piggy banks had hit it big. But my parents were quick to pass on a message from the Easter Bunny himself. “See that cross? That means this money is for the church. It’s your Easter offering to say thank you to Jesus.”

My mom would wrestle us into our matching smocked dresses and bows, and we’d clutch the plastic eggs in our little palms on the ride to church. When it came time for the offering, Mr. Fred or Mr. Lefty, or whoever was ushering that day, would stop at our pew and lower the plate to our level. Sometimes, our dad would let us put the check in the plate for him, but gosh, this was so much better. We would carefully place our plastic eggs into the plate and then watch as the eggs, brightly colored and peeking above crumpled bills and enveloped checks, made their way up to the altar. And what a thrill for us, when the preacher held up the plate, and we could see our little pink and blue and green eggs right there in front of the cross: a pastel-hued act of thanksgiving.

It’s a tradition that’s stuck, even when I can’t make it home for Easter.

A couple of years ago, my mom mailed my basket to my roommate, who hid it away until Easter morning, and there, tucked between the nail polish and the chocolate and a new pair of earrings, was a little plastic egg marked with a cross. And you better believe I took that egg to church.

WATCH: Adorable Easter Basket Ideas for Toddlers

Surprise your little ones with an Easter basket filled with treats and goodies they'll love, from educational games and puzzles to colorful toys that are perfect for spring and summer fun. Make the basket even more special with items that are personalized with your children's names.

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