Just how Christian is an Easter egg hunt?

Step aside Jesus - the Easter bunny is in town!

Egg-cellent point: Just how Christian is an Easter egg hunt? asks James Brooke
Egg-cellent point: Just how Christian is an Easter egg hunt? asks James Brooke
As Christians across the globe prepare for a long weekend of Easter festivities, Cadbury and the UK’s National Trust have been faced with a boycott.

The debate: chocolate eggs.

Children in the UK are expected to consume 17,000 calories worth of chocolate over Easter as they celebrate the holiday weekend.

It's a tradition so ingrained in the occasion that Prime Minister Theresa May felt the need to step away from post-Brexit talks in the Middle East recently to comment on her personal outrage, as a vicar's daughter, at the marketing scandal.

The debate has left us in awe at the power of PR and marketing surrounding religious events.

The Church of England accused Cadbury of "airbrushing" faith from religious festivities. Of course, we all remember the story about the Easter bunny laying eggs at Jesus' tomb and the disciples discovering the resurrected spirit while on an Easter egg hunt...

Never mind the fact that the National Trust actually did have the word 'Easter' splashed across its web pages, as did Cadbury.

The debate highlights how commercialised religious events have blurred the lines between what they represent and the role brands play in society and culture.

NatCen's British Social Attitudes survey last year found that 51.5 per cent of those in England and Wales identified as having no religion or a non-Christian religion, overtaking 43.8 per cent of those identifying as Christian.

The Scottish Social Attitudes survey found that 52 per cent of the Scottish population said they were not religious.

On paper, it makes sense for a brand to want to identify with the majority of the UK population.

However by marking the event at all, Cadbury takes on the responsibility to market to the passions of the Christian community.

The pagan roots of Easter celebrations arguably dominate over any Christian relationship with the event, but brands are treading on egg shells if they're seen as distancing themselves from any Christian association.

Perhaps the Church of England and May's reactions were lacking a little perspective, but it can't be denied that the marketing and resulting crisis management had a wider impact on UK society.

Imagine the riots if gifts, sweets and chocolate were banned from Halloween, Easter and Valentine's Day.

Festive marketing plays such an integral role in cultures across the globe that the world would be lost without it.

For the past couple of years Starbucks has faced criticism for replacing its festive imagery with plain red cups at Christmas, apparently waging war on Christianity (again, one might question the relevance of Christmas trees and reindeer at the birth of Jesus, but that's another debate).

There's no doubt that for many societies today our cultures are established by PR and marketing. Imagine if Coca-Cola sacked Santa - would Christmas be cancelled?

Brands marketing to a multi-cultural, global audience will always tread the fine line between religion and tradition and this will certainly not be the last time festive marketing will cause such debate.

James Brooke is managing director of Rooster PR

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