This Side of the Pond – April 13

By Sarah Pridgeon

Of the many important things going on across the world – nuclear readiness, regulation changes for the energy industry, supreme court judges – something happened in Britain recently that stood out by dint of its craziness. It had to do with the real meaning of Easter and the moment that someone, somewhere got it in their head that our homegrown chocolatiers have forgotten what it is.

The catastrophe kicked off when Cadbury, the company responsible for many of the chocolate eggs we enjoy at Easter, entered into a deal with The National Trust, the charity that takes care of our beauty spots and landmarks. The former would provide the treats and the latter a place to hide them in what was splashed across the advertising as, “The Great British Egg Hunt”.

I have no idea who first decided the campaign didn’t feature the word “Easter”, but it quickly became headline news. A spokesman for the Church of England cried foul, claiming the two entities had “airbrushed faith from Easter”, and so the backlash began.

National newspapers accused the National Trust of turning our “glorious” heritage into theme parks and the Archbishop of York claimed it was “spitting on the grave” of John Cadbury, the Quaker founder of the company.

It wasn’t long before the prime minister herself got involved, taking time out from her tour of the Middle East to call it “absolutely ridiculous” and claiming to be personally offended as the daughter of a vicar.

The trouble is, it wasn’t true. All the prominent people who were shocked and appalled by the news had been led astray.

The largest and most obvious words on the poster for the event are, “Enjoy Easter Fun”. Most of the packaging for Cadbury’s seasonal products (except the tiny ones and the ones that are sold all year round) include the word “Easter” – it’s often embossed on the chocolate itself.

The website for the company’s contribution to the season has “Easter” in the URL. The egg hunt itself is advertised in the section of the National Trust guide titled, “Things to Do This Easter”.

If you ask me, that’s a whole lot of Easter. I don’t personally feel as though Easter is missing from this egg hunt, not even a little bit. In fact, the image being used to support the accusations turned out to have been snipped up into bits so that it only included the corner that didn’t have “Easter” emblazoned all over it.

I wasn’t alone in wondering what the fuss was about. The National Trust pointed out that there are dozens of references to Easter on its website (although, predictably, they were then accused of adding them in overnight) and Cadbury gestured to the many instances of the word all over its promotional material.

MP Tim Farron released a statement saying that the prime minister (and the shadow prime minister, who also stuck his beak in) had “egg on their faces” and called their statements eggs-traordinary and a good reason for the two institutions to feel egg-rieved, because apparently there’s never a bad time for a good pun.

A descendant of John Cadbury was even forced to step in to point out that, actually, Quakers don’t celebrate Easter, so he probably wasn’t spinning in his grave at all.

So what on earth was going on here? Why was such a fuss being made about something that wasn’t true?

The clue might be found in a previous attack on Cadbury. Not very long ago, a fake news story was circulated that claimed the chocolate makers had altered their recipe to make their products halal. Cue a long and protracted attempt from Cadbury to explain to the many offended people on Twitter that there was nothing in the recipe that wasn’t halal in the first place.

“As our chocolate products do not contain meat, the ritual of halal does not apply and in the UK carry no halal certifications of any kind,” said a spokesman, explaining that the chocolate is just suitable for those who follow a halal diet in the same way that bread and water is suitable.

Yes, once again, fake news took over the airwaves, though, as one commentator put it, the whole thing was basically a storm in an egg cup. There is a real meaning to Easter, one that every Christian knows and understands, but it’s not to be found in the contents of a foil wrapper.

The reaction I appreciated most came from the President of the Methodist Church, who dragged the conversation back down to earth when he said that, “neither Cadbury nor the National Trust are charged with upholding Christian values”. If there is education to be offered on the meaning of Easter, he said, then it’s to the churches that the responsibility falls.

I agree with him wholeheartedly that the Easter story deserves our attention: it speaks of unconditional love and tolerance for our imperfections, which manifests in great sacrifice. In other words, the opposite of finding things about other people to be offended by. If you ask me, that’s a lesson to be stored in our hearts, whether or not we’re chewing on a chocolate egg at the time.