I have a question. Who on earth actually buys Easter eggs in January? I’m not talking about Creme Eggs (now no longer made with Dairy Milk and forever ruined), but the proper ones that mostly come in excessive, over-sized packaging with something extra thrown in for good measure. Either the supermarkets have nothing better to fill the shelves up with to replace the Christmas merchandise, or there’s a whole group of people who are so paranoid that stocks of their favourite chocolate eggs will run out by early March that they’d rather buy them asap just to be on the safe side.
Easter is no longer a festival of any significance. For the retailers it is just another season to make yet more sales, and for the average consumer it’s little more than an excuse to pig out on chocolate. The fact that I’m writing this in February, having already got sick of walking past rows of Smarties eggs at my local supermarket over the last few weeks, is depressing in itself.
At least Christmas, with its child-friendly story, manages to keep hold of a sense of the religious amongst all the consumerism. With Easter, we lost that connection long ago. It’s no surprise that in 2013 poll, 79 per cent of children did not know the actual meaning of Easter, with a quarter thinking that it’s a celebration of the Easter Bunny’s birthday. What indication is there anywhere in our shops that Easter is fundamentally about Jesus?
The powerful forces of commercialism have fused with increasing secularisation and are slowly eradicating the religious nature of our festivals. We are left with a void that renders them meaningless. Even the concept of festivals as times to mark the flow of the year and affirm our collective roots is dying out, as the idolisation of the individual and happiness through material consumption turn them into orgies of wasteful excess.
The celebration of mankind’s salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection at Easter has gone from being cultural to counter-cultural. Those who choose to enter the subversive fight to give it due respect take an honourable path. It is a battle for our historical and religious identity; for truth and the very dignity of our culture.
Against the onslaught of branded, soulless confectionery stands the humble Real Easter Egg. It not only seeks to reclaim Easter, but to present itself according to the highest ethical standards.
When in 2010 a team of Christians decided to launch a chocolate egg that contained the authentic message of Easter – and which also used high-quality Fair Trade chocolate and gave away a hefty portion of their profits to charity – it was met with a complete lack of interest by mainstream retailers. The Meaningful Chocolate Company might have had great chocolate and a noble ethic, but their religious meaning didn’t sit too well alongside Lindt bunnies and Chocolate Krispie chicks. So the company turned directly to churches and church schools, and received an overwhelming response. And every year since, as word has spread and orders flowed in, the company has sold out of their Real Easter Eggs, with demand continually outstripping ever-increasing supply.
Along the way they have faced criticism, even from Christian commentators; had a radio advert banned after the watchdog seemed unsure if Easter was Christian; and been forced to change the colour of their sister advent calendar from the liturgical colour of purple because “it belonged to Cadbury”. They have now sold over one million eggs, of which 400,000 were sold in 2014. As a result, they have given away over £160,000 to charities.
Tesco and Waitrose have realised they made a mistake and now stock them. This is to their credit, and they should be applauded for seeing its worth (commercial, if not spiritual). Last year the Real Easter Egg was deservedly voted the UK’s third favourite Fair Trade product ahead of many leading brands. It is clearly meeting a need.
The Real Easter Egg is not an example of Christians just producing their own second-rate version of a product with a feel-good slogan to satisfy the self or preach to the converted. It is actually far better quality than many of the bigger-named branded eggs, and where it succeeds most of all is in bringing values to an arena that generally has no interest in them. The Special Peace Edition Egg even contains an olive wood peace dove keyring from the Holy Land. Which other manufacturers of Easter products care anything at all about enhancing understanding of the festival by which they grow their bottom line and satisfy their shareholders? The Real Easter Egg gives retailers an opportunity to offer their customers a product of quality and substance which informs as well as feeds.
The message behind Easter is ultimately one of hope: that mankind can be reconciled to God and restored through His Son. The gift of salvation is far too important to keep behind closed church doors. Easter was always meant to be a blessing to everyone, and that is what the Real Easter Egg points to in its own small way.
Unlike the bigger commercialised brands, supplies of the Real Easter Egg are expected to run out well before Easter Day. So, in this case, early purchasing is perfectly sensible. The Meaningful Chocolate Company website is taking orders until February 27th, and after that you’ll have to try Waitrose, Tesco or Ocado. If we care about shining the light of truth into a society that increasingly wallows in the darkness of ignorance, then this is a company that deserves to be supported – even more so if you appreciate great chocolate, ethical manufacturing and fair trade.