News & Opinion


Theresa May and the great British Easter egg meltdown

The Daily Beast

April 4, 2017

Britain is a country in turmoil.

Since Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50, setting in motion Britain’s departure from the European Union, the pro-Brexit tabloids have hit a roll. First, came news that Britain’s old blue passports might make a return. Then—and this is ongoing—the possibility of going to war over Gibraltar, a hulking piece of British-territorial rock off the coast of Spain, was raised.

And now, a new national fury surrounds… Easter eggs.

Condemnation has been heaped upon Cadbury and the National Trust—famed owner of stately homes of the Downton model, usually full of beaky weekend visitors exclaiming over sconces—for dropping “Easter” from adverts for “egg hunts” they are holding around the country.

The Trust had renamed its “Easter Egg Trail” to the “Great British Egg Hunt”—and righteous Christian fury was about to rain down on them.

The controversy reached such heights that Prime Minister Theresa May—not averse to controversy herself (she arrived in Riyadh, greeting dignitaries without a headscarf)—has opined that the National Trust is “absolutely ridiculous” for taking “Easter” off the title of the egg hunts.

In an interview with ITV News, Mrs. May sounded quite stirred up. “Well, I’m not just a vicar’s daughter. I’m a member of the National Trust as well. I think the stance they’ve taken is absolutely ridiculous. And I don’t know what they’re thinking about frankly. Easter is very important. It’s important to me. It’s a very important festival for the Christian faith for millions across the world. So, I think what the National Trust is doing is frankly just ridiculous.”

Mrs. May voiced this view of chocolate Easter eggs and their centrality to religious belief with way more passion than anything she has yet pronounced on Brexit.

The Church of England thundered that Cadbury’s marketing campaign “highlights the folly in airbrushing faith from Easter.”

Religious grousing over the decline of the “true” meaning of Christmas and Easter is nothing new. And it is true that shops are awash with eggs of different prices and sizes (many tested and star-rated in the nation’s newspapers). Easter weekend is a sweet slick of chocolate overload. It’s all about the eggs in Britain.

The complicating factor is Cadbury itself. Their chocolate is a national mainstay, the bar you reach for in the newsagent for a quick treat; the makers’ of many much-loved products like Creme Eggs, with their slick of white sugary gunk inside with a yolk-like yellow puddle in the middle.

Founder John Cadbury was a Quaker, and the company grew to a much-cherished national brand, with a strong social ethos.

However, Cadbury—ever since Hershey’s took on the production of its chocolate in the U.S.—has been criticized for the taste of their chocolate becoming irredeemably worse, at least in America.

There was an international incident over the changing of the recipe of Crème Eggs in 2015.

Cadbury may be part of a corporate behemoth now, but the Archbishop of York’s criticism to the Telegraph harked back to its history. “The Cadburys were great Quaker industrialists. If people visited Birmingham today in the Cadbury World they will discover how Cadbury’s Christian faith influenced his industrial output.

“He built houses for all his workers, he built a church, he made provision for schools. It is obvious that for him Jesus and justice were two sides of the one coin.

“To drop Easter from Cadbury’s Easter Egg Hunt in my book is tantamount to spitting on the grave of Cadbury.”

Not so, said Esther McConnell, great great great great grand-daughter of John Cadbury himself, who tweeted, “I’m sure John Cadbury (my g. g. g. g. grandfather) is not spinning in his grave. As a Quaker, he didn’t celebrate Easter.”

Cadbury and the National Trust both professed themselves stung.

“It is clear to see that within our communications and marketing we clearly state the word Easter and include it in a number of promotional materials, including our website, where we do also promote our partnership with National Trust at this seasonal time of year,” said Cadbury.

Actually, the choc-makers weren’t so stung they didn’t attempt to sell a few more eggs. “We invite people from all faiths and none to enjoy our seasonal treats, which can be found around Easter time.”

There was also a defensive tweet.

A National Trust spokesman said: “It’s nonsense to suggest the National Trust is downplaying the significance of Easter. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

But again, their outrage did not deter them from trying to get more people into their country houses.

“We host a huge program of events, activities and walks to bring families together to celebrate this very special time of year. A casual glance at our website will see dozens of references to Easter throughout.”

No one has yet had the temerity to point out that “egg hunts” themselves are hardly religious, and the marketing, production, purchase, and consumption of millions of Easter eggs even less so.

Still, by late Tuesday, the Church and Mrs. May had prevailed, and the National Trust had reinserted “Easter” in its description of the egg hunts. Its website now reads: “Join the Cadbury Egg Hunts This Easter.”

It may not be lost on some in the Church that “Easter” still remains detached from “egg hunts”—which are still qualified by “Cadbury” rather than the religious festival.

But phew, at least Britain can now return to eating and believing.