UK prime minister Theresa May has sharply criticised the National Trust for dropping the word “Easter” from its annual egg hunt, saying the move was “absolutely ridiculous”, despite the event’s website being peppered with references to the religious festival.

Speaking to reporters during a tour of the Middle East on Tuesday, Mrs May said: “I’m not just a vicar’s daughter, I’m a member of the National Trust as well. I think the stance they’ve taken is absolutely ridiculous and I don’t know what they’re thinking about”.

“Easter is very important,” she added. “It’s important to me, it’s a very important festival for the Christian faith for millions across the world…So I think what the National Trust is doing is frankly just ridiculous.”

Mrs May’s comments came after the Church of England accused the National Trust of “airbrushing faith” by changing the name of the annual event – which is sponsored by Cadbury – where children search for chocolate eggs at National Trust properties.

The Archbishop of York likened dropping the word “Easter” to “spitting on the grave” of the chocolate maker’s founder John Cadbury, who was a Quaker.

A National Trust spokesman said it is “nonsense to suggest” that it is “downplaying the significance of Easter”, adding: “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

“A casual glance at our website will see dozens of references to Easter throughout.”

The event has been called the “Easter Egg Trail” in previous years. This year it has been named the “Cadbury’s Great British Egg Hunt”. Cadbury has said it wants to appeal to non-Christians.

A Cadbury spokesperson said:

It is clear to see that within our communications and marketing we clearly state the word Easter and include it in a number of promotional materials, including our website, where we do also promote our partnership with National Trust at this seasonal time of year. We invite people from all faiths and none to enjoy our seasonal treats, which can be found around Easter time.

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