Saturday, 3 April 2010


Whilst living in China I wrote about the varied and sometimes strange local festivals and celebrations that occurred during the year.  These included such delights as ‘Tomb Sweeping Day’, ‘Dragon Boat Day’ and of course Chinese New Year. So I thought it only right and proper to write about the reason why I am sitting here at home in the UK feeling rather sick – Easter.

If you were a visitor to the UK during this period you would be forgiven for thinking....

Easter is a festival to celebrate the creation of probably the most important, widely worshipped and infinitely desired icon of popular culture – chocolate.  At this time of the year millions of people purchase billions of pounds worth of cocoa based products to celebrate the foundation of the church of Chocolate.  A religion spanning thousands of years with origins based in central Mexico and the Aztecs.  Born of the Cacao tree it was hailed as “The Food of The Gods” (Theobroma cacao in Latin), a product with powers to heal, to cure, to invigorate and to ultimately corrupt.

"The divine drink, which builds up resistance and fights fatigue.
A cup of this precious drink [cocoa] permits a man
to walk for a whole day without food."
Montezuma II

John Cadbury
The word of Chocolate soon spread across the oceans, across cultures and into the hearts of millions, its addictive quality’s quickly corrupted and consumed populations.  Disciples sprang up everywhere, including John Cadbury, Milton Hershey, Franklin Mars, and Henri Nestle (Founders of Cadbury, Hershey, Mars and Nestle respectfully) they all increased its popularity through propaganda and the creation of ‘Chocolate Churches’ or confectionery stores.  Soon we would all become devout followers.

The creation of chocolate effigies in the shape of coins, eggs, bars of gold and stars are used at various periods of the year to remind us how important chocolate has become.   We cease work, school and play to celebrate chocolate, we share amongst friends and family, offer as presents and symbols of love, lust and affection.  Movies, Books and videos are created in its name,  it is all consuming and drives children to hunger, parents to despair and dentists to the sports car dealers.
Easter is one such time that we celebrate the greatness of chocolate, formed into egg shapes to represent new life, we gorge ourselves on high calorie, high sweetness brown parcels of delight. 
The tradition started early in the 19th century and was perfected by John Cadbury in 1875.  Mr Cadbury born in 1801 in Birmingham, to Richard and Elizabeth Cadbury, become a disciple for millions of children and adults.  From humble beginnings, with doubters, and critics, he came to inspire Roald Dahl to write the ‘bible’ of the Chocolate world – ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, a book expelling the virtues of chocolate excess and worshipped by chocolate lovers across the world.  Millions of people travel thousands of miles to visit the Mecca for chocolate, Bourneville in Birmingham.  A shrine to Cadbury, his family and the divine teachings of this great man, here are some facts and figures to consider:

* On average, each person in Britain eats approx. 10.2kg of chocolate per year.
* The UK chocolate market was worth £2.36 billion in 2009
* Approximately 80 million chocolate eggs are sold annually in the UK.
* The most popular chocolate egg worldwide is Cadbury's Creme Egg, they first went on sale in 1971, and now sell over 200 million each year.
* Easter chocolate sales make up 10% of Britain's annual spending on chocolate.
*  £280million was spent on Easter eggs in the 4 days leading up to Easter 2008.

Proof indeed that the tradition of celebrating chocolate at this time of the year is still strong, and that our devotion to this biblical product does not wane even after thousands of years of human development.

Of course some would say that Easter is about the resurrection of some bloke called Jesus – but try telling that to a seven year old!

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