A controversy over Easter egg labelling in Lincolnshire highlights tensions over cultural identity, with critics fearing the erosion of Christian traditions amidst broader societal shifts.

E aster is as good a time as any, it seems, for a rollicking culture war. Consider what just happened in Britain.

In Lincolnshire, a county in eastern England, a row broke out over one chocolate store’s decision to advertise Easter eggs as “gesture” eggs. The story, in the Daily Telegraph, said that the Cadbury store in Spalding, Lincolnshire, had renamed the traditional Easter product. The move drew criticism from campaign group Christian Concern and swift disavowal of any knowledge or approval of the change from Cadbury.

The company’s Easter eggs, said Cadbury, remained labelled exactly as they should be.

Ok, so Easter in Britain got right back on track, which is to say it’s everywhere, as always. So far, so good, except that the row does say something about the brittle state of community relationships. Christian Concern criticised the apparent labelling of “gesture eggs” as a sign that people are “overly worried about offending”. Offending who, one might ask, except that it’s obvious they mean non-Christians? That’s a pretty divisive point.


The group added there was little point selling Easter eggs, which symbolise “resurrection… new life”, if linkages are severed between the meaning of the festival and its signature product. They have a point though it’s not clear if the linkage was deliberately severed (even if briefly).

What was interesting, however, was the way Turning Point UK jumped on the issue.

Its tweet explicitly drew a link between the signage for Ramadan and the “gesture eggs”. In other words, there are forces in Britain that allegedly seek to erase Easter and replace such faith traditions with others.

Turning Point UK, the British offshoot of the American student pressure group Turning Point USA, says it believes in “FAMILY; FAITH; FREEDOM” (in all-caps, just like that). But to be fair it also describes itself as “a right-wing conservative activist and political organisation.

That’s them sorted but what to make about the other person worried about Britain’s Christian culture? Nick Fletcher, MP of Britain’s governing Conservative Party. He opened a debate in parliament on March 21 on ‘Easter, Christian culture and heritage’ and declared that British culture was often wrongly described as some of the following things: “the royal family, our cuisine, the English breakfast, our love of a curry and fish and chips, how we like to queue, the pub, our humour — mainly sarcasm and banter — a cup of tea, sport, the BBC, and so the list goes on.”

But these, he said, aren’t really our culture at all and more like various kinds of “entertainment”. Instead, he said, “Our culture goes back to those three words I spoke about earlier — Christian religious life.” He ended on a gloomy note: “If the teachings of the Christian way of life are slowly eroded, which I believe they have been, I am afraid that each generation will fall further away from our God. Life can and will definitely get worse for us all.”

Eroded? How? Might Mr Fletcher have been referring to declining church attendance in Britain?

According to a 2022 survey just 6% of adults in the UK are practising Christians. Average attendance for Church of England Sunday services in 2021 was 509,000. There are said to be more mosque-going British Muslims than regular worshippers in the Church of England. Indeed, falling numbers of church-goers is a matter of concern, mainly because it points to a decline in community-based ritual that revolves around faith, even as a consumerist culture based around shopping and sport assumes greater importance.


That said, the decline in conspicuous religiosity is accompanied by the rise of spiritual and well-being philosophies. This suggests that British culture is changing in ways both seen and unseen.

Change, however, should not automatically mean that everyone takes up positions on the battlefield.

Every misjudgement — and the Spalding store appears to have taken a rather silly approach to marketing — is not a sinister sign of a wish to erase Easter, cancel Christmas and render Christians invisible. Only the culture warriors would believe that.

PUBLIC SQUARE UK

GOING FURTHER

~ Editor’s note: References to Easter eggs had been restored by the next day.




Sources:

▪ This piece was first published in Medium and re-published in PUBLIC SQUARE UK on 3 April 2024 under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence. | The author writes in a personal capacity.
Cover: Dreamstime/Craig Russell.



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