Cadbury Drops an Easter Reference, Entering a Culture War


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A card shop in London displayed a “Happy Easter” sign on Tuesday. In Britain, the chocolate giant Cadbury omitted the word “Easter” from the title of an annual egg hunt it sponsors, prompting a dispute.

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Justin Tallis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Some American conservatives, including President Trump, warn that secular elites, pursuing an agenda of political correctness, have played down religion as part of a so-called war on Christmas.

In Britain, some are now warning of a war on Easter.

The “storm in an egg cup,” as the network ITV put it, began after the confectionary giant Cadbury decided to omit the word “Easter” from the title of an annual egg hunt it sponsors, calling the event “Cadbury’s Great British Egg Hunt.”

The event, which has been around for a decade and has been known as the Easter Egg Trail, is co-sponsored with the National Trust, a conservation charity. It sends hundreds of thousands of children hunting for Easter eggs on historic properties across the country on Easter weekend.

The decision was considered such an affront to traditionalists that none less than the Archbishop of York and Prime Minister Theresa May intervened to express dismay.

The archbishop, John Sentamu, lamented that omitting an explicit Easter reference was akin to “spitting on the grave” of John Cadbury, a Quaker who founded the company, which initially sold cocoa and drinking chocolate, in Birmingham in 1824.

“If people visited Birmingham today in the Cadbury World they will discover how Cadbury’s Christian faith influenced his industrial output,” he told The Daily Telegraph. “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.”

Mrs. May, a vicar’s daughter, was sufficiently irritated by the decision to omit the word “Easter” that she interrupted a trip in the Middle East to weigh in on the debate, calling it “absolutely ridiculous.”

“I’m not just a vicar’s daughter — I’m a member of the National Trust as well,” she told ITV. “I think the stance they have taken is absolutely ridiculous. I don’t know what they are thinking about, frankly. Easter’s very important. It’s important to me, it’s a very important festival for the Christian faith for millions across the world.”

The protests recalled in some ways statements by Mr. Trump, who two years ago suggested boycotting Starbucks, after it came under criticism for seasonal cup designs that appeared to emphasize winter weather and social harmony over Christmas-specific greetings.

“If I become president, we’re all going to be saying, ‘Merry Christmas,’ again, that I can tell you,” Mr. Trump said at a campaign event in Springfield, Ill.

Fanning a similar theme, in 2013 the Fox News host Bill O’Reilly bemoaned a “war on Easter” in the United States, saying: “It’s not a spring egg. It’s an Easter egg.”

Cadbury said in a statement that it was “simply not true to claim that we have removed the word ‘Easter’ from our marketing and communication materials.” Preaching a message of inclusiveness, it added, “We invite people from all faiths and none to enjoy our seasonal treats.”

The National Trust said any suggestion it was playing down the significance of Easter was “nonsense.” “A casual glance at our website will see dozens of references to Easter throughout,” it said in a statement.

The culture war over Easter comes after Britain triggered the start of its negotiations to leave the European Union and as it has become consumed by a debate over national identity while it struggles to find a place in a globalized world.

The Church of England — with its titular head, the monarch — has been at the core of national identity dating to the 16th century. But immigration, multiculturalism and intensifying secularism have helped to diminish its sway.

Peter York, a cultural commentator, said the outrage, in part, reflected the national mood, including a nostalgia for the past and an exhaustion with political correctness befitting the era of Trump and “Brexit.” “Brexit makes it rather O.K. to endorse such views,” he said, referring to the decision to leave the bloc.

He emphasized, however, that, in his view, the desire to play down the religious aspect of the holiday was invariably motivated by one factor above all: Cadbury’s desire to sell more candy. Noting that Cadbury, a storied British company, was bought in 2010 for nearly $20 billion by Kraft Foods, now called Mondelez International, he added: “I blame the Americans for this, and some creepy globalist neoliberal, private-equity-driven motive aimed at not offending anyone who has a tuppence in their purse. I do rather wish Easter could still be called Easter.”

Others said the debate was misplaced, among them Esther McConnell, who said she was a descendant of Cadbury. “I’m sure John Cadbury (my g. g. g. g. grandfather) is not spinning in his grave,” she wrote on Twitter. “As a Quaker, he didn’t celebrate Easter.”

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