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Cadbury Easter Eggs

April 18, 2011


The name Easter is derived from Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess. Pagan fertility rites were celebrated in the springtime. These ancient feasts emphasized the triumph of life over death.

The holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus coincided with the pagan festivals. Gradually, the Christian observance absorbed traditional symbols of fertility. Eggs and rabbits became models for confections to be enjoyed as the season of the Lent came to an end on Easter Sunday.

When our children were young, Cadbury Eggs were their favorite Easter treat.  An Easter basket was not complete without one or two of the foil-wrapped candy eggs. The taste of a Cadbury Egg is exquisite.  These crème-filled chocolate eggs may seem like pure decadence; but, in fact, the origin of the confection was prompted by a genuine ethical concern.Among industrial workers in Victorian Britain, many mothers and children spent long days working in dirty, dangerous factories.  Families lived in cramped tenements.  Widespread alcoholism contributed to poverty and domestic violence.  The Salvation Army attacked these problems with soup, soap, and salvation.

John Cadbury and his family took a different approach to social reform.  They used cocoa. The Cadburys belonged to the Society of Friends, the Quakers.  In 1831, John opened a shop in Birmingham, England, as an alternative to local pubs. Rather than selling alcoholic beverages, John offered coffee and tea.  He soon added cocoa.

For 30 years he ground cocoa by hand, using a mortar and pestle.  When he retired in 1861, his sons, Richard and George, moved the growing business to a new plant in the countryside.  The business employed more than 200 people.  Not only did the Cadburys build a state-of-the-art chocolate factory, but they also built a village, enabling their employees to live away from the dingy city of Birmingham.  The small community featured cottages with gardens, public parks, swimming pools, shops, schools, and churches.   In keeping with the Cadburys’ convictions about alcohol, there were no pubs.

In the Cadbury factory, classes were offered at night.  Each day began with a Bible study. The brothers circulated among the workers listening for good ideas. Their Quaker convictions about equality and justice had much to do with the way they ran their business.

George Fox, the founder of the Quakers, believed that all people possessed an inner light linking them to God and making them equal to each other.  Following this principle, the Cadbury Board governed by consensus.  Company committees included representatives from all levels of the organization.

These reforms elevated the sense of dignity among their employees. The Cadbury family was held in high esteem by hundreds of loyal workers.

John Cadbury and his family believed that by allowing their faith to influence their business, they could be true to their moral values. The Cadbury Company became a successful enterprise and a sterling example of a corporation governed by ethical principles.

This week, if your diet permits, enjoy a Cadbury Easter Egg.

You’ll be joining thousands of others in a delightful holiday tradition.


Kirk H. Neely
© April 2011


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