Church of England Says ‘Airbrushing Easter’ Is ‘Spitting On the Grave’ of Cadbury Founder

The Church of England has accused Britain’s National Trust and the Cadbury chocolate company of “airbrushing Easter” by removing the holiday’s name from the title of organized Easter egg hunt events across the European country. The archbishop of York even argued that removing Easter from the event logo is tantamount to “spitting on the grave” of John Cadbury, the chocolate company’s founder.

“The Cadburys were Great Quaker industrialists,” John Sentamu, the archbishop of York, told Britain’s Daily Telegraph. “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.”

Because of Cadbury’s strong faith commitment, Sentamu argued that “to drop Easter from Cadbury’s Easter Egg Hunt in my book is tantamount to spitting on the grave of Cadbury.”

The annual event has been rebranded to exclude Easter for the first time in 10 years. In previous years it has been called an “Easter Egg Trail,” but this year it has been named the “Great British Egg Hunt.”

Cadbury, which sponsors the event, told the Telegraph it wanted to appeal to non-Christians. “We invite people from all faiths and none to enjoy our seasonal treats.”

The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty (known simply as the National Trust), a nonprofit conservation organization in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, is sponsoring the Cadbury egg hunts. Its website previously announced the event as “National Trust Easter Egg Trail Sponsored by Cadbury,” the Telegraph reported, but was updated to invite people to “Join the Cadbury Egg hunt at the National Trust.”

The National Trust argued Cadbury was responsible for the rebranding. “The National Trust is in no way downplaying the significance of Easter, which is why we put on a huge number of events, activities and walks to bring families together at this time of year,” a spokesman told the Telegraph. “We work closely with Cadbury, who are responsible for branding and wording of our egg hunt campaign.”

A Cadbury spokesman also minimized the change. “Each year, our Easter campaigns have a different name and this year our seasonal campaign is called the ‘Cadbury’s Great British Egg Hunt,'” he said. “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.”

The Church of England was not alone in condemning the rebranding as “airbrushing faith in Easter.” David Marshall, CEO of the Meaningful Chocolate Company, attacked the rebranding as “an industrial operation to effectively replace Jesus with the Cadbury bunny while luring children and families away from celebrating the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus.”

The Meaningful Chocolate Company makes explicitly religious Easter eggs, using Fairtrade practices. This is not the first time Cadbury has come under attack for removing Easter from its eggs. As the Telegraph reported, customers complained last year when the holiday was removed from the front of packaging on its eggs, which were labeled “Milk Chocolate Eggs.” The holiday’s name remained on the back of the packages, however.

Similarly, “Easter” is mentioned multiple times on the websites of the National Trust and Cadbury. The YouTube video promoting the egg hunts mentions the holiday, starting with “This Easter, Cadbury is bringing joy to the whole nation.”

This fracas about removing the word “Easter” only highlights the fact that celebrations surrounding bunnies and chocolate eggs are culturally different from the Christian meaning of the holiday, which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ resurrection has nothing to do with bunnies and eggs — Christians just celebrate it in the spring, the same time of year as bunnies come out and plants come back to life.

It may be an insult to Cadbury for his own company to remove Easter from its products, and on that point Sentamu may be correct. But while Easter is just as important for Christianity — arguably more important — the cultural celebration of it is less connected to the Christian religious meaning and more to the time of year.

About 350,000 people are expected to attend hunts at more than 250 National Trust sites this year, up from approximately 250,000 last year. Perhaps that number would increase with a more religious branding, but perhaps not.