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The great Easter egg controversy

April 4, 2017

I see that Theresa May has said it’s “absolutely ridiculous” that Cadbury’s and the National Trust have decided to re-label a planned Easter egg hunt as a mere egg hunt. Judging from the reaction I’ve seen on Twitter, her wading into this affair hasn’t increased her popularity. She’s been criticised from two angles: one, that she should have more important things to think about, and two, that eggs don’t have any theological connection with Easter anyway.

Both those charges are true. Nevertheless I find myself in sympathy with May here. No doubt she does have more pressing concerns to attend to, but we can’t always be talking about the most important thing in the world. And whilst chocolate eggs are not part of the story of the Passion, I am quite sure that that’s not the reason Cadbury’s and the National Trust removed the word ‘Easter’. I really don’t think they thought, “Oh, it would be misleading to say ‘Easter’ because people might think our egg-hunt had some connection with Christianity, so we’d better avoid that confusion”.

So why did they do it? First, we should note that the issue isn’t quite clear-cut because Cadbury’s and the National Trust emphasise that, although the actual hunt is not described as an ‘Easter egg hunt”, the word “Easter” does appear in their promotional literature and on their website. So they haven’t de-Eastered it completely. Leaving that aside, though, what reason could there be for not calling it an Easter egg hunt?

I am speculating, but I suspect it was because they did not wish to offend followers of other faiths. If so, that’s a pretty spavined reason, because followers of other faiths (or none) are not offended by references to Christianity. They just aren’t. And why would they be? I think this is an example of someone trying to be politically correct but getting it wrong. I should say I’ve got nothing against political correctness per se; it’s commendable to be sensitive and avoid needless offence in one’s use of language. But sometimes people just aren’t very good at it.

The fact is that Easter eggs simply are called Easter eggs, just as Christmas puddings are called Christmas puddings. We don’t have to get rid of all the Christian references in English just because we are no longer all Christians. I actually like the way a nation’s history and traditions are preserved in its language. Our days of the week, for example, commemorate Norse and Roman gods, but I hope nobody will propose re-naming them on that account.

P.S. May I bring to your attention my comic fantasy YA novel The Infinite Powers of Adam Gowers – here is the link: https://unbound.com/books/adam-gowers . Go there and you will see a neat little 2-minute video of me explaining why the time for this novel has come!

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2 Comments
  1. Simon Carter permalink

    Presumably the mythical person likely to be offended will be equally outraged by the use of the word holiday?
    Is there a word for the avoidance of offence where none has previously existed?

  2. Mark Brafield permalink

    Nothing to add – save to say that this strikes me as robust, admirable good sense.

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