(RNS) Brightly colored eggs have been an important element in many families' Easter traditions and celebrations for decades. In the PAAS line of egg dye alone, which is owned by Signature Brands, LLC of Ocala, Fla., families can choose at least 10 different ways to design Easter eggs, including speckled, sparkling glitter or even tie-dyed eggs.

But last year, PAAS also released a more religious kit. According to the company, the PAAS Easter Celebration Kit "captures the true spirit of Easter through traditional images."

During March and April grocery stores and supermarkets sell more than 600 million eggs nationwide. PAAS, which has been producing Easter egg dye for 120 years, estimates its kits help families decorate about 180 million eggs a year.

"One hundred and twenty years is a milestone and we wanted to celebrate it," said Pat Reddish, director of human resources at Signature Brands. "The ingredients of the special Easter Celebration Kit came out of a brainstorming session as to what's the spirit of Easter and what does Easter mean to you?"

The kit includes angel cut-outs, images to wrap around eggs like stained glass and a cross, and egg stickers depicting the Bible, praying hands, lilies and a dove. "We certainly know that to some people Easter is the ultimate religious holiday of the year and to others it's about chocolate bunnies," said Reddish. "This was just an attempt to come out with a new kit that would address the family that's looking to have religious images for their children at Easter time."

The company's Easter Angels egg decorating kit, released in 1997, was one of PAAS' best sellers.

For evangelist and author Steve Russo, the whole issue of eggs and Easter marketing is a problem on which he's trying to put a positive spin. Russo, host of the nationally syndicated radio program "Real Answers" and an associate evangelist with the Billy Graham organization, recently wrote the book "Why Celebrate Easter."

The book was partly a response to an increase in Easter marketing and sermons Russo had heard on past Easter Sundays that focused more on issues like the stock market than on the Easter message of resurrection.

"Unfortunately, even in the church today, Easter is not what it should be," Russo said. "In our desire to be seeker-sensitive we've become seeker-driven, so we've watered down the message of the cross and the resurrection," he said.

On one hand he looks at religious-themed egg kits and cringes. "Their motivation is obviously marketing and money," he said, noting some Christians are adopting a purist attitude and rejecting eggs and bunnies altogether. But his family chooses to decorate eggs and have fun doing it together. So he also believes a religious-oriented egg kit can offer a family an opportunity to talk about the Easter message while they decorate.

"It is contributing to the problem and it is a little bit hokey," he said, "but we can take this and make it a positive thing."
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