Egg-cessive gift giving: Is Easter the new Christmas?

April 14 | Guest post by Brink Powell
Christmas Santa Bunny plushie from Amazon.

On Easter Eve I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed (the ultimate waste of time and braincells) and I saw a post that sparked my interest. The poster said that she had encouraged her son to ask the Easter Bunny for a bicycle for Easter. Come again? I went back and read the post again then stared in bewilderment at a photo of a small bicycle with a big pastel bow on it sitting next to a table on which a basket overflowing with candy was sitting. What the fuck?

Thinking this HAD to be an isolated event, I started scrolling faster through my news feed and to my shock, I found other such posts and photos by friends who are also parents. Easter gifts of monster trucks, DVDs, video games, etc… Some of the piles of presents were larger and more elaborate than what one sees at Christmas time. All sorts of gifts from Easter-Santa-Bunny-Claus to be opened by shiny eyed children at the crack of dawn.

In my humble childhood experience the Easter Bunny brought chocolate, candy, and perhaps a few small toys — all of which are the appropriate size to fit in a basket. An actual basket! Not a toy bin, not a kiddie pool — a basket. What's next? Children sitting on the lap of a man in a bunny suit asking for the trendiest toy of the season? Children making lists to send to the lair of the bunny? Is the Easter Bunny keeping constant tabs on children and creating his own naughty and nice list? Does he have different credentials for the making his list than Santa? Don't children have enough mythical beings watching them already?

The Pink Nightmare
Easter Bunny Boston Terrier thinks this is all a bit much too. (By: lessapathymorecakeCC BY 2.0

If this trend catches on where does it end?

Will Cupid, a leprechaun, Uncle Sam and Tom Turkey start leaving large presents on their respective holidays? Will Groot start taking shits in peoples' shoes for Arbor Day? Once we start down this slippery slope where do we draw the line?

I am all for making holidays fun for children and have no issues with a split between some candy and some little gifts. Each family has their own traditions and that's great. But I am also firmly against rewarding children for absolutely no reason at all. I got gifts on my birthday and Christmas. I got a basket full of candy on Easter. I got absolutely nothing on other holidays because they aren't gift giving holidays.

Social media has undoubtedly fanned the flames of this fire

Filling a swimming pool with toys doesn't prove how much children are loved.

Parents who post pictures of the piles of "loot" their children receive are creating competition with the parents who practice moderation. Children are being set up for a bad turnout either way. Over gifting can lead to a sense of entitlement while moderate gifting can lead them to wonder why they didn't get as much as their friends.

The rampant commercialism that has already gripped Christmas has now consumed Easter as well. The religious meaning of the holiday — for those who celebrate it — is starting to be overshadowed. But what bothers me most about this trend of Easter being Christmas 2.0 is my fear for this younger generation. I fear that they are going to become, through no fault of their own, self-indulgent, spoiled, entitled, useless assholes.

My plea to parents is this: Bring it down a notch

Kids would be perfectly happy with a small basket of candy, a coloring book, and perhaps a movie. I always was content with that because I was never taught to expect more. Filling a swimming pool with toys doesn't prove how much children are loved. Spending quality time dyeing eggs, or participating in a community egg hunt, or making cookies will leave a bigger impression on children than having them dive head first into a pool of Easter themed plastic.

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  1. When I first read this article, there was something about it that seemed incongruous with other Offbeat home articles. As I re-read, I realized that most Offbeat articles are of this variety: "This is what I do" or "This is what worked for me." This article does not follow that normal pattern. And, overall, it seems a little judgemental and uncharitable.
    I'm not saying I disagree with the author – I too think buying the entire toy store for your child on Easter or any other occasion speaks to some deeper familial/parental issues that need addressing. However, this article does not help that kind of parent, show them that there is another 'Offbeat' way, or make them feel included in this community.
    I think I would have found the article more intriguing if it was something along the lines of "How we avoid Easter consumerism with our kids" or "How we navigate gift giving occasions with our kids" or even "How I avoid social media competition."
    I do really love the line about Groot shitting in people's shoes for Arbor Day, though. I LOLed. Hard.

    53 agree
    • I think the piece is meant to be largely humorous and the tone is exaggerated for effect.

      8 agree
    • I found this article very judgey and counter to what I used to love about Offbeat Families and currently like about Offbeat Homes. I'd be more interested in reading about how the poster organizes low-key or earth friendly easter or community service-centric spring celebrations. I am not at all interested in reading about a woman judging her Facebook friends for how they choose to spend their money.

      19 agree
    • I completely agree. It's easy to tell someone they are doing something wrong, but it's far more valuable to show other options!

  2. While my Easter memories are very similar to the OP's, I'll point out something.
    Easter comes right around tax day. I imagine a lot of parents want to spend some of their refund money on their kid and Easter is a nice excuse to do that.

    But I agree with the above poster who said this article comes across as judgmental. If people want to turn Easter into a big gift giving holiday, I say have at it. Their money, their kids, their business. As long as they're not giving their kids bunnies or chicks that they'll abandon in a few months, I'm good with it.

    6 agree
  3. Agree as above the tone of this feels a bit off for Offbeat Home…but you know they sometimes have to work with what's submitted, so if you have a constructive/personal take on Easter, why not submit!
    Growing up, the Easter Bunny always left me small gifts as well as chocolate, perhaps because in Australia it coincides with school holidays. This also matched the small gifts/books instead of money I received from the Tooth Fairy…as a book worm I was rapt.
    Now my partner and I give each other gifts instead of chocolate for health reasons-he's getting the Killer Bunnies board game this year.

    11 agree
  4. Hear Hear! I am not particularly religious, but the commercialization of religious holidays always makes me uncomfortable. Wouldn't it seem weird if Jewish or Muslim holidays were big plastic spend-fests the way Christmas and Easter have become? (Actually, I have no idea if this is true in some communities, it could be, but none of the Jewish or Muslim families I know seem to have done this, so I'm working with what i've been exposed to). It's no less weird that we (meaning mainstream American culture) do it with Christian holidays, IMO.

    I teach middle school kids and several of them had no idea Easter was anything but a bunny motivated reason to give chocolate and gifts. Had no idea it as even a religious holiday.

    11 agree
    • I mean, my kids are going to have no idea that Easter and Christmas are meant to be religious holidays because I will purposefully want it way. When holidays become mainstream, they become more secular in order to include more people. If my kid doesn't celebrate christmas/easter she or will be the odd duck, so we will celebrate. But we surely won't celebrate the religious side and there's nothing wrong with that.

      4 agree
      • I understand not celebrating the religious side of things, because Easter and Christmas have both religious and secular components in today's society. But I disagree with the idea that your children shouldn't know there is a religious component simply because you don't celebrate it. We live in a multi-cultural and multi-faith world, and I think it's important for children to grow up with an understanding of major faith celebrations and traditions due to the diversity of today's society.

        9 agree
    • I do think you see this with Hanukkah, which has basically become "Jewish Christmas" with toys, greeting cards, candy, and cheap decorations. Most of my friends stop celebrating it once their kids are older, but you'd think it was the most important holiday the way things are marketed. Even lent is commercialized to a degree with the way fish specials are marketed around this time of year. Understanding commercialism is part of our culture is something important to explain to children, but it doesn't mean to me you can't take advantage of the parts of it you enjoy, while teaching them to ignore the rest.

      I don't think toys are necessarily a bad thing for Easter. A bike is much healthier than a basketful of candy. Switching from candy to outdoor activity toys for spring actually seems like a good idea to me.

      From the bio at the bottom I get the sense that the author of the piece does not have kids of her own which I think is what leads to the judgey tone of the piece since there is only what others should do and no experience or plan for what the author is doing. Im not against child free people having opinions, but it becomes tricky to express it without coming across judgemental without the personal experience to soften it. It is an important consideration when speaking to any other group of people which you don't have membership in.

      I don't think what you get is what makes a child spoiled. In some parts of the world just a basket of chocolate would be an indulgent luxury. The important thing is instilling the value of something. Understanding the work that is done to provide what the child is getting and also a sense of generosity towards others. When my son complained once about our work we explain it is what allows him to have toys and his favorite foods.
      This holiday has a great religious meaning of sacrifice for others; it would be the perfect time to have a kid volunteer. Also you could consider what I learned to do from one of my friends to cut down on toy clutter, for each new toy the child picks an old toy they no longer use to give away. That way also they don't just have an expectation that everything will be handed to them, but also that they should try to give to others as well.

      As the parent of an only child generosity is something I'm very aware of instilling in my son since he doesn't have a sibling he must share things with. I don't think limiting what he gets does that, instilling the importance of kindness and respect towards others does.

      11 agree
      • See, I feel this comment comes across as the typical "You're not a parent and therefore your opinion isn't as valid as mine". Which feels just as judgemental

        9 agree
        • Thank you for that validation Sarah! As Aime so astutely observed, no, I am not a parent and my husband and I have made the decision to remain child-free. This article is mainly a hyperbolic commentary on a trend that I see growing yearly which concerns me. As far as giving advice on how to combat the commercialism I thought my final paragraph summed that up pretty well. I know that I am much more inclined to remember experiences with my family much more than physical gifts. Sure, sometimes the experience was born of a gift, like following my Dad around the yard with my bubble mower as he mowed the lawn, but it's still the experience and not the object itself that I remember fondly. As for, Easter I can't recall every small toy or movie or book I ever received but I can definitely tell you about dying eggs with my family and helping Mom turn them into deviled eggs for our Easter dinner.

          1 agrees
    • The thing here is that the history of Christianity will show that the clergy adopted Pagan holidays for the Christian Church, as a way to ease Pagan populations into the new Faith. Springtime celebrations of rebirth and fertility using eggs as symbols = Easter. Wintertime/Yule celebrations = Christmas. Etc. Judaism and Islam have been established for long enough that they didn't have to do that.

      1 agrees
  5. I hate to break it to you but the commercialization started a long time ago. I remember kids getting bikes for Easter when *I* was a kid. The good news is : it actually doesn't seem to catching hold. Thirty years later, my niece and nephew still get Easter baskets with candy, nothing else, just like their friends.

    Which is a relief because between all the protesting and letter writing I'm doing these days, I don't know when I'd find time to fire-bomb the Easter Bunny's Lair. 🙂

    5 agree
      • A distinct possibility. Bragging was only limited to the schoolyard back then. 😉

        3 agree
    • It might be that the bikes were Christmas presents given at Easter as it's nearer to start of summer in case there was a growth spurt just after Christmas. I remember my parents did it for me one year.

      1 agrees
      • My parents used to do the opposite–I have a late summer birthday, so sometimes I'd get a bike at the start of spring/summer as an early birthday present, since otherwise I'd get only a few good weeks to ride it before school started/it got too cold again.

  6. Glad I read this article. My husband and I don't consider ourselves Christians, but agreed we would celebrate Christmas still but not Easter. My Mom told me that I would make my kids weird if we didn't celebrate Easter (or Passover… what the heck Mom!) but after reading this, I think it will be good to not start the tradition at all.

    I think fun holiday traditions are great. I think it is fine to adopt new ones. But when it comes to simply buying things it really rubs me the wrong way. I feel like holidays will be me having to battle temptations for gifts and seas of candy. Hey, I don't mind candy, but looking at what my nieces would get, there is just way too much.

    1 agrees
  7. My family and I do very low-key Easters. It is full on spring in DC so we usually do a backyard breakfast and egg hunt. Followed by my husband going to work (he bartends the busy brunch shift) and the kids and I hitting up a local playground or natural trail. We are not religious so we don't go to Church or celebrate for any religious reasons. We just enjoy the spring day together.

    However, if my neighbors or Facebook friends buy bikes and bags of candy so be it. It is their money and if that is how they choose to spend their money more power to them. I don't want anyone to judge me for how I choose to celebrate a holiday so I try not to judge them. No one way of celebrating is intrinsically better then another.

    3 agree
  8. It's not just the Christmas-ization of Easter. There is abundant conspicuous overconsumption all over the place. We've become a culture that glorifies going into debt to buy things we don't need or enjoy.

    Easter definitely has too much plastic. (In defense of plastic eggs, they are reusable and great for kids who are allergic to actual eggs.) I come from a family that re-used most of the Easter things (baskets, basket cellophane wrap, "easter grass," etc.). Our tradition was that the baskets were hidden and we had to find them. They contained candy and a few small gifts, maybe some money from relatives (which was immediately taken to the bank and put into the savings account). These days, most of those plastic things go into the trash–not the recycling–and become pollution. This is not a good use of our resources.

    Easter's proximity to tax day isn't an excuse to go nuts. If you really wanted to do something meaningful for your kids with that tax refund, you'd set it aside to help them with college (or apprenticeship school, or culinary academy, or whatever), save it for a birthday, use it to pay for an activity that is otherwise a splurge (whether that's a movie night out or karate lessons)…my point is really there is no need or reason to spend it on Easter.

    In the end, I get it, if you are the parent, you get to make the decisions. For the love of the deity of your choice, please do NOT get animals as gifts (the world already has enough unwanted bunnies who were poorly cared for prior to being dumped at a shelter). If you are going to get an animal, make sure you are a responsible pet owner, educate yourself first, and make sure the animal and child are appropriately matched. Your local animal shelter can help. #AdoptDontShop

    I encourage everyone (not just parents) to check out the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood (which is all about stopping ads targeted at children, who don't have the same judgment as adults when it comes to ads) and the Center for a New American Dream (motto: More Fun, Less Stuff).

    http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/
    https://www.newdream.org/

    6 agree
  9. As an Atheist raised by loosely practicing Catholics, I have little attachment to the Easter holiday. For us, it usually means dinner at my parents, and probably eggs hidden around the house since it makes Mother happy. My sister and I are more than willing to hunt for brightly colored eggs filled with candy and laundry money if it makes Mother happy 🙂

    While I do dislike the idea of every holiday requiring lots of gifts, a bike for Easter makes perfect sense if someone wanted to do a 'bigger' gift for Easter. I live in New England, so winter is barely over now. We had 18 inches of snow dropped on a Wednesday at the end of March, this week was the first week with temperatures consistently above 50 degrees, and there are still melting snow piles. Getting a bike for Christmas seems a little silly for a growing child in New England, since they might outgrow it before they can use it!

    Thinking about it now, I definitely received a bike for Easter one year from my grandparents.

    I do think social media makes these differences so much more obvious than it used to be. I hate to think how weird I would have thought my family was if I saw how everyone else celebrated holidays when I was a kid.

    3 agree
  10. Here's what's in the kid's basket- sidewalk chalk, bubbles, a coloring book, uno cards, markers, and peeps. She's also got a new bouncy ball waiting off to the side with 3 dozen eggs hidden containing kisses and erasers. The one tradition we have is that I make braided egg bread and colored eggs.

    I was worried this year as my daughter is 4 and I wasn't sure of what she was expecting. That's the trouble, the family traditions mix at school causing confusion. Just waiting on the response when she tells a classmate that Santa brings one toy… made of wood.

    2 agree
  11. We went overboard, we are those parents. I am probably not going to post a picture on FB for fear of momma shaming and that is sad. I don't have to validate my 4 year old's basket to anyone – we make plenty of money and don't buy him toys any other time of the year (except his b day and Christmas).
    Spend your money as you wish. Life goes on.

    11 agree
  12. While I personally find the idea of video game consoles in Easter baskets excessive, I also don't believe it's my business to police other people's parenting. And you have no idea why a child might be getting a large present. A YouTuber I used to watch would give her daughter a large present at Easter because she was born so close to Christmas, so her two large gifts for the year would be more spaced out.

    "I fear that they are going to become, through no fault of their own, self-indulgent, spoiled, entitled, useless assholes." – said every generation ever about the next one.

    13 agree
  13. I agree, it drives me crazy. When we were kids, we would get some candy (for the family to share) and, like one gift (often an American Girl outfit– we got one outfit for Christmas, one for birthday, and maybe one for Easter if there was an especially cute spring themed one that year). We never believed the Easter Bunny was a real thing (It didn't occur to me until a couple of years ago that some people think of it as a Santa type figure who leaves presents and hides eggs? WTF?). My parents hid the eggs in the backyard and then my friends and I would find them, and they were hard-boiled, and then we would eat Easter dinner and have egg salad sandwiches for a week.

    Now, we do a similar thing– my mom gets each member of the family a special See's egg as a treat, and a couple of bags for this cookie jar goose centerpiece thing, and after Easter dinner/lunch we can raid the goose and eat the candy. Obviously we're adults now, but it's not a whole lot different than what we used to do. The piles of plastic and gifts drive me crazy– I grew up Methodist and would still call myself a Christian, albeit a highly skeptical one who is firmly on #teamscience, but Easter is still a religious holiday. I go to church, usually a sunrise service, and we celebrate it because it's a Christian holiday. It seems inauthentic to celebrate it with lavish piles of plastic and not even touch the religious aspect at all.

    2 agree
    • Wait, you WEREN'T told that the Easter Bunny came at night and filled your basket? My mind has been blown!
      Funny story about that. My mother is a bartender and has always worked on Saturday nights. One Easter Eve she got home super late, like 4AM late, and just went straight to bed thinking she'd beat me up. She didn't. So I walked out of my room at about 9AM expecting my basket to have candy it in and … nope! This was really confusing because the Easter Bunny wasn't like Santa as far as presents being dependent on good behavior, he just always came. My father made something about how he was running late that year and would come while we were at church! Smooth, Dad, super smooth, lol.

  14. It's actually a strategic thing. With me anyway.

    Especially when my daughter was little, summertime in this part of the country means serious heat, and when she's outside for camp (aka more fun summer childcare for cheaper than daycare rates), it means an entirely different set of outfits than when she's in an air conditioned school.

    There's also a lot of summer toys like bubbles and kites and such that really don't keep all that well from one year to the next or get used up like sidewalk chalk.

    So, rather than taking my kid on shopping sprees and having them always wanting more expensive shorts that will only be used for June-August, I always used Easter as a summer item delivery day.

    Clothes, toys, pool stuff,sports​ equipment, whatever summer stuff I knew she needed, it came via bunny.

    It's not that she was actually getting anything she wouldn't have gotten through the year otherwise… It's just a whole lot simpler. Kite in Easter basket is wonderful no matter what is on it even when I paid $3.. kite at store with 10 options, she won't like any and will want the fancy $20 stunt kite.

    And she did get a bike one year, and a scooter another. Her birthday is a month from Christmas… We get ice here, and cold temps… I didn't feel like trying to teach a 6 year old to ride a bike while it was snowing. Easter just worked better as a delivery date. Again, she would have gotten the bike at another time anyway, but as a practical matter, it just made more sense and created less stress.

    So, there is a logic behind this for some of us…. Not just a random bike appearing on a whim for a spoiled kid instead of a stuffed animal.

    7 agree
  15. I grew up with a simple Easter basket. My husband grew up with an egg hunt. Our daughter tends to get an Easter gift, usually something for spring. She reacts really strongly to sugar and can't eat a lot of candy due to some dental issues, so an Easter present was an easy work around for us. While I'm not keen on some of the more heavy-handed commercialism of the holiday (especially as practicing Christians), I'm also of the mindset that families will do what works for them. Some of my friends on facebook had crazy baskets filled to the brim with all kinds of goodies. We had marshmallow peeps in hot chocolate. If you're not keen on the over-the-top displays of Pinterest-perfect decor and gifts, then ignore, push back, or find your own way.

    1 agrees
  16. My brother-in-law, in a (patronizing but I think well-meaning) attempt at being a good parent, pronounced that children eat too much crap and there would be no chocolate acceptable Easter gifts this year.

    With the result that my kiddo received; cash from confused grand-ma, a giant plush bunny as big as her, a set of legos, some petshops and had an egg-hunt for plastic eggs filled with marshmallows, gummies and caramels (from an aunt deliberately going around the rules her brother set)

    You could say this is more materialistic and ridiculous spending compared to last year when she collected a basket of chocolate eggs. It would certainly seem so in a facebook photo anyway. And yet, this was an effort by my brother-in-law to be a better parent!

    So, which is ACTUALLY better? Which will produce the least self-centered hopeless brats? Frankly, your opinion is as good mine. I just know facebook shouldn't factor too heavily into it.

    6 agree
  17. I agree with some of the other commenters on this post: though I get that it's meant to be hyperbolic, it definitely comes across as judgemental (more so for the hyperbole) and uses a lot of the same language as all that baby boomer / millennial nonsense OBH usually pushes back against. From my point of view, I could write a very similar post about the over commercialisation of easter where kids are given whole baskets of eggs and small toys, but not bat an eyelid at a bicycle. Where I grew up you got one, maybe two eggs if your parents spoilt you, and depending on your school / social clubs (or depending on the weather!) you either had an egg hunt or everyone made easter bonnets out of craft paper. Religious families opted out of the eggs and rabbits nonsense, but did give large, practical gifts like clothing, musical instruments or bicycles.

    1 agrees
  18. I'm 29, and my friends usually had a few small gifts in their Easter baskets, but my family did ZERO presents for Easter, chocolate and candy only, all found on a hunt. As I found the treats, I placed them in my basket. For me, any gifts at all is strange!

  19. One thing, parents or childfree of somewhere in between like me, we should all remember is that we ALL present perfect pictures on social media that don't tell the entire story. I know of parents in my life that brag on FB that they bought their kids an extravagant gift, but the context of their bragging is that, for instance, they've been scrimping and saving for most of their children's lives and they just got a promotion at work and they can't WAIT to spoil their kids on their birthdays like they've always wanted to do. On the other hand, I've known parents to brag on social media about what they bought their kids to make it seem like they're okay financially when they really aren't. But I only know that context because I know them in real life, and so in just a snapshot while we're scrolling through our feeds at lunch hoping someone posted a cute cat picture, it all gets lumped together as bragging.

    I certainly get the "spoil the person you love" impulse–I may not BE a parent myself but I have a husband and two parents, after all, and who's to tell me I can't spend an exorbitant amount of money in about three weeks on the woman who gave birth to me? And of course when we got engaged, my husband gave me the most expensive gift I've ever received in the form of my engagement ring, and I sure as shit shared THAT on social media when he gifted it to me because that was a huge life event. So, ironically given her message, I think this is where OP lost a lot of people, by focusing too much on the things shared rather than the intention behind sharing the things on social media. Give your kids big gifts. Or don't. Just as long as we're all on board that the GIFTS themselves are for the kids but the sharing on social media is NOT for the kids at all–I mean, the average five-year-old I know only knows of Facebook as the app they have to close out of to get to Angry Birds.

    4 agree
  20. I agree that increasingly guilt-tripping parents into buying more and more is unhealthy (and I think the author, rather than intending to judge anyone, wanted to fend off being judged) but I don't think wealth is what spoils kids, nor does lack of presents traumatize them. The levels of happiness or sadness stay pretty much the same, whether a child has much or little, so long as she gets her basic needs met and receives plenty of love–repeated studies have shown this.

    If you want to cushion kids against the commercialism, try laughing at it, and inviting them in on the joke. My folks saved a lot of money by snickering about slavery to fashion, which meant I never expected or wanted the latest trendy back-to-school dress.

    2 agree
    • "If you want to cushion kids against the commercialism, try laughing at it, and inviting them in on the joke."

      THIS!! I got a sample of some "Men's Extreme Moisturizing" lotion (insert epic eye rolls here) and when I used it on my son after a bath, I was like, "Oh look, it's *demolition derby voice* EXTREME LOTION. You can tell it's for men because it's in a *demolition derby voice* BLUE TUBE! Because it's FOR MEN!! And it's EXTREME!"

      Then we talked about how silly it was that lotion was marketed differently to men vs women, and how really it was just about packaging and fragrance. It was a great convo, and he was really into the demolition derby voice.

      5 agree
      • I agree, although I have a very live and let live policy. I do want to offer you hope though. I was one of the kids whose parents and grandparents went over board with presents. Like, way overboard. With each holiday. Gift giving was their love language. Both my sister and I actually headed in the exact opposite direction, as a rejection of this disgusting waste of resources in our childhood and we barely give gifts at all. I am exploring minimalism and I often forget to mark holidays at all!

        1 agrees
  21. I actually received four Easter baskets (the baskets themselves were reused) every year growing up until I was confirmed: one from my parents, one from my godmother, one from my brother's godmother, and one from my grandma. My godmother also bought me a dress to wear to church. Four greeting cards, four chocolate rabbits, peeps, chocolate eggs, a keepsake book, a ceramic floral basket, and an egg ornament from my dad for our lilac Easter tree, maybe a couple of dime store toys from my grandma. My dad still buys me Easter baskets with chocolate, tea, books, movies, and a ceramic floral basket. To me, Easter was always more like Halloween than Christmas. We decorated and dyed two dozen eggs with my mom that my dad hid while we were at church and then another egg hunt at my grandma's house later. I buy my nieces Easter candy.

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