It is Easter, arguably the most important date in the Christian calender, and certainly my favourite, as I am a lifelong chocoholic.
I remember the glory days of Easter, before shops had no choice but to make sensible purchasing decisions due to the economic implosion, when Easter Monday would mean me leaving Sainsbury’s with luggage comparable to that of a Victorian lady embarking on a transatlantic cruise. When someone says ‘Easter Sales’ to me, unlike other women my age, I don’t think of shoes and handbags, I think of gaudily wrapped chocolate and tiny, sugary eggs, and I salivate.
I was raised as a Christian, and was a girl of Faith for many years. When I believed in God, I happily accepted that Easter was His Foil-Wrapped Festival Of Life, the Easter Bunny his heavenly minion and that Crème Eggs were pearls of his benevolent wisdom made manifest. I never understood the tangible link between God and chocolate, although on a sensual basis, as a person dangerously addicted to chocolate, I could well understand the association. As an adult atheist, I remain convinced that chocolate is the closest thing I now have to understanding ‘God’.
At the time of being a Christian, like a lot of people of faith (by no means all) I was not in the habit of questioning what appeared to be the ‘Will Of God’ when the ‘Will Of God’ suited me just fine. God wanted me to eat chocolate eggs, I liked eating chocolate eggs; I was at peace with the design of my magnificent maker, even if it included diabetes.
This blog was prompted by a conversation with a Muslim man I know. He is not an extreme theist, but he is a man of Faith. He is also a man with a penchant for Crème Eggs (frankly, I distrust anyone who doesn’t like them). He showed me a card from his local shop whereby he collected a sticker every time he bought a Crème Egg and when he got 10 stickers, he got a free Crème Egg. He was chuffed as fuck with it. I, being a cynical twat, said:
“Ooh. Buy ten religions icons, and get one free!” It was a gentle gag, at best, but he had a box of six Crème Eggs on him at the time, and a large part of my energy was taken up with constructing a Machiavellian plot to get one of them in my mouth.
He looked at me and frowned.
“I don’t think Crème Eggs really count as religious icons, Kat.” I was torn between entering a discussion that sounded interesting and instant intellectual submission to ensure the Crème Egg/Kat Mouth continuum. I’d already eaten two Crème Eggs that day, so I went for the discussion, with a Crème Egg ninja idea hanging onto the back of my train of thought.
“They probably should. They’re EASTER eggs, and Easter is definitely something to do with Christianity. If you just let me hold them…” He looked at his box of eggs, moving them slightly out of my reach.
“I sort of assumed it was just shops making profit out of Easter. It’s not an icon like a necklace with Jesus on a cross. It’s not like they hand out Crème Eggs in Christian churches. Do they?”
“None I’ve been to, I’m sure some do.” He ran his thumb tantalisingly under the seal on the front of the box and ripped it in twain.
“So not all churches have Crème Eggs, but all churches would probably have a cross with Jesus on?”
“Not always with Jesus, but yeah, probably crosses.” He was opening the box.
“So they’re not religious religious. I don’t like to sound like I’m taking the piss, but seriously, what is the connection between God and chocolate eggs?” He looked at me expectantly, holding the lid of the box open with both thumbs. Six perfectly wrapped delights sparkled at me, I was captivated by their beauty. I stared back at him, dumbfounded.
“I have no idea.”
“Exactly. Sugar Filled Icon?” He offered me the open box, I politely took only one.
As we stood and ate our eggs, I realised that I wanted to know if I was taking part in a religious ceremony, or just munching on chocolate-coated capitalism. As I sit here now, on Easter Sunday, with a bowl of mini-eggs on my lap, I have that question in my mind.
If eating chocolate at Easter is somehow associated with the Christian God, am I currently being a good Christian, by no virtue other than witlessly adhering to a tradition?
The reason for the symbol of eggs seems to be fairly easy to uncover, a logical symbol for fertility and rebirth, to remind Christians of the time Jesus came back to life. If you don’t cling on too hard to Sciency-Wiency, then okay, fine, I suppose the egg thing makes sense in the context of the story. When I asked a Christian friend why eggs were around at Easter, he said it was because the stone at the face of Jesus’s tomb would have been shaped like an egg. I prefer the second, simpler story (a quick Wiki glimpse at the alien nature of avian reproduction puts me right off bird eggs as symbols for human fertility).
The symbolism is also weakened by traditional Easter games, such as rolling them down hills or dancing about with them on the floor and trying not to break any. Any chicken who can survive that gestation period would be a gobsmacking symbol of fertility. Obviously, none of them do.
The tradition didn’t start with chocolate, it started with aesthetics, hand painted or dyed chicken eggs. From austere beginnings as simple red eggs (red like the blood of Christ, obvs) the eggs became gifts as well as symbols, and also became prettier and more colourful, more celebratory than representational. Our Lord And Saviour has died and risen, have a brightly coloured chicken abortion with a bow on it. Amen.
It may sound like I’m taking the piss, and that will be because I am. The most expensive Easter Egg ever made was a $10mil Faberge Egg, and that’s symbolism gone wild. Symbolism’s tits were screen-washing a middle aged guy’s Corvette at a junction the day that Easter Egg got made. If a religion creates something like that via its wide reaching ‘traditions’ then it should be ashamed, and should prepare to have those traditions mocked.
If I try to stay on the right side of objective, I have to conclude that the $10mil Faberge Egg cannot be blamed on Christianity, because the symbol of an avian egg as one for human fertility, cannot be owned by Christianity. It is arguably a Humanist symbol, and the aesthetic point is fair; mammal embryos at that stage look gross, whereas a bird egg is such a neat little package. If something has already been chosen because it’s prettier, why not make it even prettier than that?
When I hold a brightly coloured egg in my hand, I’m connecting with a tradition that far predates Christianity. Decorated eggs have been uncovered by African archaeology that are tens of thousands of years old! As humans we connect with the symbol of an egg for ongoing life, and we always like to make things pretty. Humans invented the idea, Christianity hijacked it.
This means I can no longer blame the foolishness of the tradition on Christianity, but Christianity cannot lay to claim to me when I shovel chocolate eggs into my face, even on Easter Sunday. The symbol does not belong to Christianity, and the crossover into my life is due to chocolate, and chocolate is definitely not owned by Christianity.
There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of chocolate eggs until as recently as the 1800s, but I haven’t done extensive research. I have had a nice morning reading about early methods of chocolate production, and it would seem that the late appearance of chocolate Easter eggs may have been due to underdeveloped manufacturing techniques. The fall-out of the Industrial Revolution affected chocolate makers, as well as everybody else, and somebody invented a cost-effective way to mould chocolate. Amen, the glorious birth of ‘religious’ tradition.
I made a cheap joke about a serious issue, and my punishment was considering and writing this blog. I honestly do not want to partake in activities that support religious ideas, or be an advocate of any religious group. If I take part in things that I know are happening purely because of a non-secular holiday, I would be celebrating the God relevant to that holiday, and I don’t think I should do that when I don’t believe in a God.
I don’t believe religion should be automatically approached with reverence, but I do think powerful symbols should be handled with care, and if my level of interaction with a symbol demonstrates an affiliation with a group I don’t want to be associated with, then I should stop doing that.
After some thought, I don’t believe that a Crème Egg is a powerful religious symbol, and I don’t think I am aligning myself with any sect of Christianity or admitting any Faith by consuming my body weight in chocolate eggs on a weekly basis between February and May. As I approach the bottom of my bowl of mini-eggs, and look forward to an evening of reading, napping and secular karaoke, I know that eating chocolate eggs on Easter Sunday does not make me a Christian Missionary.
I’ve been reminded that I should be careful with symbols, and make sure I understand them before I use them, or even dismiss them. If a symbol is representative of something specific, then I believe I should only wear/use/display that symbol if I really have a belief in what it stands for. A powerful symbol cannot just be fashion, or flavour, it means something, even in unwitting hands. I shouldn’t be making weak gags about religious icons, I should be thinking about the potential impact of an insidious ideological attack.
When my mate asked me, “What is the connection between god and chocolate eggs?” I should have been able to instantly say:
“Absolutely fuck all. Gimme one.” Next time I will, and next time something like this comes up, I’ll keep my mouth shut until I understand at least a little bit of what I’m saying. If I’m talking, but I don’t know what I’m saying, then exactly whose words am I speaking?