Away in a Manger, No Crib for a Roll

The bakery chain Greggs faced criticism last week for the advertising image they used to promote their new advent calendar. The image replaced the baby Jesus in the nativity scene with a sausage roll, sparking criticism from religious groups and Twitter users. The image was branded insensitive and offensive, with Simon Richards, leader of right-wing pressure group, the Freedom Association, calling for a boycott of Greggs and its ‘sick anti-Christian advent calendar’.

Despite these criticisms of the popular bakery chain’s use of the Christian image, many have responded to the image positively. The image is not seen as offensive, but is simply a light-hearted celebration of Greggs’ delicious baked goods, particularly its iconic sausage roll. So is equating the image of Jesus with a sausage roll insensitive? I, among with many others, would say no.

Fundamentally, the image is funny because of its suggestion that the Greggs sausage roll is as iconic as Jesus. Perhaps the critics of the image are not aware of the love the country has for the Greggs’ sausage roll. The pastry is a classic on the Greggs menu and a staple in the diets of many people.

Most of the outrage comes from the Freedom Association, which is a right-wing pressure group and is, therefore, more likely to take offence to this light-hearted use of religious imagery. More liberal Christian groups have not spoken out about the advertising, as they accept that playful discourse is expected. Anything that perpetuates itself as objectively true and as an actual basis of living, as Christianity does, should be able to hold up against light-hearted critique.

One of the main criticisms is that other religions would not have their icons used in marketing campaigns, if at all, particularly those that trivialise them in this way. While there is some truth in this, at least officially, Christianity is the majority religion in the United Kingdom, with Christmas being a national holiday.

The advert does not stand in the way of practicing faith and does not suggest that there is anything wrong with Christianity. It can be construed as insensitive but it completely depends on who is receiving it as such. Whether it is insensitive or not is subjective; an atheist, a Christian, and someone of another faith would all receive the image differently.

It has also been suggested that the controversy is simply a marketing ploy as Christmas marketing campaigns become more and more competitive. Creating a controversy is a relatively cheap way to generate a buzz around the company’s new product, which is what has happened with Greggs’ new advent calendar. Perhaps no-one was offended at all and it was all manufactured by Greggs? Whether this was the case or not, it has called into question whether images like this are insensitive or whether they are just another light-hearted marketing campaign.


Eleanor Smith

(Image courtesy of