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18 February 2011

Don’t mention the “C” word

That’s anything to do with Christianity – even when it’s Easter.

By Sholto Byrnes

If ever there was an instance of a country being so hideously embarrassed about its past, and about one aspect that informed its culture for centuries, this is it. The Church of England has launched a “Real Easter Egg” in a box that explains what the festival is about. The egg is still chocolate, and two charities, Baby Lifeline and Traidcraft Exchange, will benefit from the proceeds. All well and good, you might think. But you really could not make up the way this news has been reported and the blocks the egg producers have had to overcome.

“Supermarkets agree to stock Christian-themed Easter eggs” is the Guardian‘s headline. I like that “agree”, implying a de haut en bas concession on the part of the retailers, and which I imagine the sub-editor typed out with purse-lipped disapproval. Selling anything “Christian-themed” – and at Easter! Whatever next? “Christian-themed” Christmas cards?

Better still, however, is this from the Daily Mail’s report: “Initial plans to introduce it had to be cancelled after the patenting authorities queried the meaning of Easter in relation to the egg. But lawyers argued successfully that a link could be made between Christianity, Easter and chocolate eggs.”

Whether most people tucking in to their eggs know it or not, Easter is of far greater importance than Christmas. Jesus’s birth is one thing, but he would have been just another end-times preacher (there were rather a lot in 1st-century Judaea), were it not for what happened after his death: “On the third day He rose again, in accordance with the Scriptures”, as the Nicene Creed puts it. That’s Easter.

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Yes, I suppose one could argue – and how accommodating of the patenting authorities to accept eventually – that there might be some connection between Christianity, Easter and the oval-shaped confectionery objects usually consumed in springtime. That they happen to be called “Easter eggs” might have provided a clue, but perhaps that was too superficial and obvious to carry much weight in the refined air of the patent authority’s offices.

There is a strong suggestion that it might somehow be offensive to sell Easter eggs that say something about, er, Easter. But who would take exception? Not those belonging to other religions, for sure. Atheists? Should such a comestible find its way into a God-free household, one would have thought it could be an aid to understanding diversity. “Yes, there are some strange people called Christians who believe a dead man disappeared from a tomb on this day nearly 2,000 years ago. Odd, isn’t it? Now pass me another chunk . . .”

Nobody has to buy these eggs. (They’re only available at some supermarkets, in any case.) Nobody has to believe what is written on the side of the packaging, any more than anyone has to take at face value Tony the Tiger’s testimony that Kellogg’s Frosties are “Gr-r-reat!”.

But the disdain for anything associated with Christianity is so strong in some circles that there seems to be a desire to excise any whiff (or, in this case, taste) of it from the public sphere. I feel sorry for anyone who feels that way, as our history – which makes no sense if one cuts out the major role religion played in it – must be depressing reading for them.

Is it really too much for Christians to draw just a little attention to their religion when we all have days off to commemorate their festivals? Perhaps we should just rename Easter and Christmas and be done with it.

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