If there’s one thing Jesus was renowned for, it was his lengthy teachings on Pagan-based fertility symbols. The guy barely shut up about eggs, for instance. And perhaps one of the better-known Bible verses that I hear from preachers these days is what he said about baby rabbits… that story where Jesus buys a chocolate egg and multiplies it for his followers to enjoy. Or something.
This is why, at this time of year, we worship eggs made out of chocolate and make straw hats with cut-out bunnies and chicks on them. Because Jesus was at the centre of all talk of animals giving birth.
For this reason, a certain portion of Christian commentators have been outraged this week that chocolate Easter eggs don’t necessarily have the word Easter plastered all over them. Not that they ever have, as far as I can gather, but for some reason, it is now of paramount importance that Jesus’s close relationship with confectionary is celebrated overtly.
This is what the pour souls staffing the Twitter accounts at Cadbury’s and the National Trust have discovered, after the Daily Telegraph reported (incorrectly) that their Easter egg hunt didn’t have the word Easter in its publicity.
(Clue: it had the word Easter on it.)
As Mark Steel so aptly put it, “The National Trust have tried to defend their actions, by pointing out it isn’t true they omitted the word Easter, but what difference does that make? If we can’t condemn an organisation for omitting a word they haven’t omitted, we‘ve lost the true meaning of Christianity.”
84 million “we did say Easter actually” replies later, and the unfortunate social media bods at Cadbury’s are still at it, and there is still a week and a bit to go until this particular drama dies down.
At the same time, some particularly populist racists have also latched onto the fact that Cadbury’s chocolate Easter eggs are safe for Muslims to eat, i.e. they are halal.
The Halal Food Authority explains that “In Arabic [halal] simply means permissible or allowed. Opposite to it is haram, which means forbidden or not allowed”. It goes on to say, “to make meat halal or permissible, an animal or poultry has to be slaughtered in a ritual way known as Zibah or Zabihah. To make it readily comprehended halal is somewhat like Jewish kosher and, Zibah is with some exception similar to Shechita”.
So, Easter eggs are halal as long as they do not contain meat that has been incorrectly slaughtered, or pork products. I’m pretty sure that that encompasses the entire country’s stock of chocolate confectionary – to make a haram Easter egg would take creativity, flair and a distinct lack of culinary talent or taste.
This means – and I’m sorry to break this to the racists in question – that every glass of water, green leaf salad and loaf of bread you eat is halal and, unless you vow to live exclusively on bacon and incorrectly slaughtered beef for the rest of your life, you can’t avoid it. Because all it means is that it is ‘permissible’ to Muslims.
However, this does not satisfy social media users, who have vowed – in their droves – to abandon Cadbury’s because of its halal chocolate status. They are instead promising to gorge themselves on Lindt or Nestle chocolate eggs – sorry, Easter eggs – because these are, well, halal as well.
As a spokesperson for Mondelez, the company that owns Cadbury’s, pointed out, chocolate does not contain meat.
They said, “In the UK our chocolate products are suitable for vegetarians and those following a halal diet, however they are not Halal certified.
“As our chocolate products do not contain meat, the ritual of halal does not apply and in the UK carry no halal certifications of any kind.
Meanwhile, our Prime Minister, Theresa May, who held back from expressing objections to everything from Trump’s Muslim ban to children living in poverty in the UK, finally found her ethical line in the sand. We’ve all got one, and hers was the non-Easter Easter egg hunt. On her way to Saudi Arabia, where she was going to sell arms (remember that ethical line thing?), she declared it “absolutely ridiculous”, saying, “I’m not just a vicar’s daughter, I’m a member of the National Trust as well. I don’t know what they are thinking about, frankly”.
And all of this is overlooking the glaringly obvious fact that Easter is a massive Pagan celebration. Of course, the death and resurrection for Christians is the most important date in the religious calendar, but all of the symbolism for new life has been poached from Pagan festivities for centuries. Heather McDougall sums it up nicely here for the Guardian, but the gist is that eggs, rabbits, and even hot cross buns have their roots in ancient times. That’s not to say the Pagans won’t share them with the Christians, but for bigots and their friends to object to them not being explicitly Christian when they have been widely nicked and co-opted is pretty rich.
Photo: Abigail Batchelder/Creative Commons