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How do you make a hot bun cross?

Updated: May 13

As we gear up to close our laptops for the early weekend, how many of us are reflecting on why we’ve got a four day weekend, why we are getting two short weeks, why are parents rushing to book annual leave to spend time with their children and why supermarkets have aisles brimming full of hot cross buns and Easter eggs? 

To take us all back to Sunday School, let’s delve into the story of Easter without this feeling like a GCSE religious studies lesson. It begins with the events leading up to Jesus' crucifixion, known as Good Friday, marking his sacrifice for humanity's sins. Three days later, on Easter Sunday, Jesus rises from the dead, defeating death and offering the promise of eternal life to all who believe in him. This resurrection is not only a pivotal moment in Christian theology but also a powerful symbol of hope, renewal, and the victory of light over darkness. For Christians worldwide, this story epitomises faith, forgiveness, and new beginning. 

Rooted in both religious tradition and historical events, the story of Easter has profound symbolism and meaning for Christians. To see how commercialised the holiday has become is a hard pill to swallow for members of the Christian community and for me as a Black woman of Jamaican heritage, I’ve been reflecting on how we celebrate Easter very differently than what might be traditional in other households. 

On Friday we don’t eat any other meats apart from fish as part of Lent. Saltfish and ackee with dumplings are usually for breakfast and lots of crispy fried fish soaked in a spicy pickled sauce to last us for the weekend. Not to forget the array of baked goods on offer including our national staple – bun and cheese. We’ll get to the buns later - for now let’s focus on eggs. 

It starts with the eggs 

In their Easter campaign this year, ASDA collaborated with Havas London for a new campaign launch. Havas's Chief Creative Officer, Vicki Maguire, commented “Easter is all about spending time with your loved ones and enjoying some top-quality food and drink. But c’mon, we all know what everyone wants – chocolate eggs, and lots of them. Our latest Asda campaign captures this perfectly. Showing that this Easter, Asda is offering many things, but it starts with the eggs.’’ 

Apparently starting with the eggs has spilled over into other religions. KitKat’s Ramadan Gift Set recently resurfaced, causing backlash from some Twitter/X users who accused the brand of participating in the erasure of Easter as a Christian holiday. The issue was that the notion of Easter Eggs - or a box filled with chocolate - was adapted into another religion. As Amani wrote, she doesn’t want a Ramadan advent calendar, she wants understanding and it seems like she’s not the only one suspect of KitKat’s efforts. 

I think sometimes the saying is true, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. We don’t need to compare Christmas to Ramadan or have Ramadan advent calendars. All religions deserve space, time and respect in a way that recognises their roots. 

It’s about the gesture, not the egg

This was the approach Cadbury’s took this year, apparently erasing Easter in the process. A Cadbury store in Lincolnshire offered a two for £10 deal on ‘gesture eggs’, which charity Christian Concern has called ‘very odd’ as it loses the meaning of eggs. On closer inspection it appears this wasn’t done by Cadbury, but by an independent retailer called Freshstore. Cadbury proudly assert that they’ve used the word Easter in their marketing and communications for over 100 years.

The apparent drop of the word Easter signposts to two things. The first is that language is becoming a hot button topic by the day. According to a recent study, half of Britons worry about saying the wrong thing when it comes to DEI, and seven in ten say people are made to feel stupid for saying the wrong thing. We can just imagine the conversation following the Cadbury story: ‘you just don’t know what you can and can’t say any more!’ 

The second is that people are identifying less with religion and becoming more secular. In the 2021 census, 37% of the population identified as having ‘no religion’, meaning the UK has now become amongst the least religious countries in the world. In 1950 80% of Britons were Christian, in 2000 this dropped to 64% and in 2021 this fell to 46%. Historians like Peter Burger have attributed this trend to religious diversity - and while this is a contributing factor - it’s not the catalyst nor should it give conservative members of the public a reason to spew hate.

Just don’t make a hot bun cross

Hate has been rife and directed at the hot cross bun. Stay with me. The hot cross bun is intrinsic to the roots of Easter, with its cross representing the crucifixion of Jesus, the spices inside signifying the spices used to embalm him at his burial and sometimes orange peel to reflect the bitterness of his time on the cross. This year we’ve seen Iceland feel the ‘wrath’ of the GB News reader consumer by attempting to erase Easter. by, apparently removing the ‘cross’ from their hot cross buns in a nod to ‘diversity checkbox’:

We were as suspect as you, and all was not as it seemed after the Iceland Executive Chair revealed it was a PR stunt that increased sales of actual hot cross buns. 

It seems that messing with the foods of Easter is not to be done lightly. While KitKit is trying to be inclusive, Iceland took another approach that appears to have worked for some. Playing with diversity through a lens of divisiveness to gain headlines. It turns out that when you play with the cross to make other people cross it gets people talking. 

So as we come together over the weekend with our families - close or chosen - we can learn from marketers who spot opportunities around this time of year. We can appreciate the roots of Easter, understand why traditions don’t need to be copied and pasted from one religion to another, and take a lighthearted look at those buns with butter - lots of butter. 

It’s certainly given me lots of food for thought. 


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