I know Christmas is coming, but Easter hasn’t quite disappeared yet.

Last Easter saw the launch of the Real Easter Egg – the UK’s first ever Easter egg to mention Jesus and tell the Easter story on the box. Produced by Manchester-based Meaningful Chocolate Company, the aim was to make real the Easter themes of hope and new life by donating profits from the egg to charitable causes. How about this?

Over £25,000 has been given to charity from profits made by sales of The Real Easter Egg. David Marshall, from the Meaningful Chocolate Company, said:

I am thrilled to be able to donate over £21,000 to Traidcraft Exchange and over £4,000 to Baby Lifeline. In addition to this, we paid a fee to The Fairtrade
Foundation to support their work, including its education programme. Our farmers received a guaranteed price for their cocoa and sugar as well as a
Fairtrade Premium of $60 a tonne to invest in their community’s wellbeing. With over 80 million eggs sold in the UK every year, we have a long way
to go in our campaign to make The Real Easter Egg the gift of choice by the faith and wider community. Next Easter we hope everyone will look out for The
Real Easter Egg. Buying this egg is a way of reclaiming the festival and a way of communicating key aspects of the Christian faith in an attractive yummy

In fact, more than 72,000 eggs were sold and it was bought by thousands of people attending churches and a significant number of schools. Bulk orders ranged from 48 to 600 eggs at a time. Supermarkets Morrison’s, Waitrose, Co-op, and Booths stocked the egg across hundreds of stores as well as hundreds of independent retailers and community/church/Cathedral shops supplied by Traidcraft. According to the company, the egg sold out quickly with many supermarket customers walking past two-for-one offers to buy The Real Easter Egg. There were calls from retailers, schools and churches requesting eggs a month before Easter but the eggs had sold out. In 2011 The Real Easter Egg was endorsed by leading figures including The Archbishop of York and Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ben Kingsley and cast members of Coronation Street. It also won backing for a national competition sponsored by a Ecclesiastical Insurance.

The number of eggs has been dramatically increased for 2012 but churches, schools and Cathedral shops are being asked to make bulk orders by mid February 2012 to avoid disappointment.

Now, we don’t have to wait for Easter 2012. Last month The Meaningful Chocolate Company revealed its Meaningful Tree Decorations, an interactive chocolate gift and a new way to tell the Christmas story!

Liverpool’s defeat at home to Blackpool this afternoon has reinforced for me the essential need for a theology of hope. That aside, however, life carries on – just a little more sadly. Perhaps now is the time to urge some positive action that could also be fun.

Christmas hasn’t come yet, but Easter is inextricably bound together with it. And these days you have to get well ahead of the game if you are to make any difference to anything.

I hadn’t realised until recently that there is no Easter Egg on the market that points to or says anything about the Christian meaning of Easter – in other words, the message is missing from the medium. Over 80 million eggs bought and sold and not one of them makes the connection. Why had I never noticed that? (Probably because I was busy scoffing the contents of the box…)

Well, now someone has spotted the gap in the market. The Real Easter Egg, the UK’s first and only Easter egg to mention Jesus on the box, has been launched. Church schools and churches are being asked to put in an order before Christmas – partly in order to demonstrate to the supermarkets that there is a market out there.

What’s good about this is that the company set up to create and market the eggs has priced them to include a donation to charitable projects – buying everything from medical equipment for mums in the UK to chickens for farmers in Africa. The Real Easter Egg is made from high-quality Fairtrade chocolate. The recommended retail price of the egg is £3.99. 30 pence from each egg will be donated to Traidcraft Exchange and a further 10% from profits will go to Baby Lifeline.

 So, as the press release puts it,

with 7 million people going to church at least once a month, another 7 million supporting the ethos behind Fairtrade products, and nearly 8,000 church schools, demand is expected to be high for The Real Easter Egg.

For schools that order before 1 December 2010 there will be educational resources available in January 2011 with The Real Easter Eggs being delivered early in 2011. It is hoped that staff will use the arrival of the eggs to teach about citizenship, the meaning of Easter, the role of Fairtrade and the place of charitable giving. One idea is that eggs can then be given as rewards for students who have worked particularly hard in exploring these themes.

OK, some will hate this idea because it smacks of tacky evangelism. Then again, some people hate anything they didn’t have the imagination to think of first. Even if I were an atheist or a secularist, I could see (what I might call) the ‘Andrew Motion’ sense in this: that, at even a very basic level, our children need to learn the Bible and the Christian faith if they (at the very least) to begin to understand history, art, music, literature, etc.

And are the charities involved kosher (probably not the right word to use…)? Well,

  • Traidcraft Exchange is a development charity which helps small-scale farmers and producers gain the confidence, knowledge and opportunities to work together effectively, find markets for their products, and trade successfully – resulting directly in increased incomes and improved livelihoods. It also lobbies and campaigns for trade policies and practices that help – rather than harm – people in the developing world, and encourage those who feel powerless to speak up for their rights.
  • Baby Lifeline supports new mothers and new-born babies in the UK. It supplies hospitals with life-saving equipment such as incubators and helps to give specialist training to doctors and midwives.  Further afield, the cocoa and sugar farmers earn a Fairtrade Premium to invest in community projects that they choose, from chickens to fresh water.

Christians of all shapes and sizes should grab this one and run with it. The only eggs I will buy in 2011 are Real Easter Eggs. And I will be urging schools and churches in my diocese to join in. (I’ll also join them in a post-Easter diet…)