Ten years ago churches and schools from the Oxford Diocese helped establish a mission project which has reached millions of people, crosses all denominations and offers individuals a simple way to share the Easter story while supporting Fairtrade and charitable projects.
The idea began in 2008 when David Marshall, who worked for the Church of England at the time, was given a chocolate Easter egg. On the side of the box, it read: ‘Easter is the festival of chocolate and loveliness’.
He searched for an Easter egg which mentioned the Christian story of Easter. It became clear that out of the 80 million eggs on sale, there was not a single manufacturer who was willing to mention the religious aspects of the festival. So he asked churches and schools to help crowdfund The Meaningful Chocolate Company to manufacture the UK’s first ‘Real Easter Egg’. For it to be a ‘Real Easter Egg’ it had to reflect the Easter themes of hope and new life and do three things – have a copy of the Easter story in the box, be made from Fairtrade chocolate and support charitable causes. The Oxford Diocese led the way with orders for more than 10,000 eggs in that first year.
Ten years on, the Fairtrade chocolate used in the Real Easter Egg is made at the Barry Callebaut chocolate factory in Banbury, Oxfordshire. In 2016, the Rt Revd Colin Fletcher, the Bishop of Dorchester, visited to find out about the process. More than a million eggs have been sold with over 750,000 sent through the post directly. The rest have been sold through retailers and supermarkets. Nearly £275,000 has been donated to charitable projects with Fairtrade Premium fees paid to farmers allowing them to buy everything from school books and solar panels to providing fresh water.
For Easter 2020, there are five types of Real Easter Eggs available all with new content. Each egg has an edition of the Easter story included. There is a new 24-page version in the Original and Dark eggs with activities, biblical text and a prize competition worth £200.
There is a poster activity version of the Easter story in the Sharing Box and Fun Pack and a simple guide version in the Special Edition. Both the Original and Dark 2020 eggs are plastic-free and all the chocolate is Palm Oil-free.