Is it me, or does the (phoney) War on Christmas start earlier and earlier with each year that passes? Local supermarkets are already stocking the shelves with Christmas items, but how long before the attacks on the great British Christmas begins? How long before archbishops and the popular press start rolling out the myths of PC kill joys banning Christmas in favour of something called Winterval or Luminos?
The "story" rolled out on an annual basis is that mysterious "politically correct" officials will advance an anti-Christian agenda by "banning" all kinds of Christmas activities. In tabloid short hand this becomes the "war on christmas". It's all very surreal, for a start most Brits, regardless of their beliefs, love their Christmas. I love Christmas, as do most of atheist friends and family. Christmas, alongside the New Year celebrations, make a fantastic end of year come mid-winter jamboree, a chance to celebrate with work colleagues, a chance to put some thought into buying presents for those you care about, and most certainly, yes a chance to indulge in some nice food, fine wines and hard spirits. But, this isn't the Christmas that the likes of the Daily Mail wish to defend, in fact, they don't like our Christmas, and pine (sic) instead for a enforcement of a purely religious festival.
Last year the phoney War On Christmas started in early November, but there was early skirmishing in September when Steve Doughty on the Daily Mail enthusastically reported comments by the Archbishop of York that Muslims should integrate more and no-one should consider Christmas cards to any way embarass our Muslim friends and neighbours. The War got into full swing on November 7 when the Royal Mail were attacked over the outrageous crime of producing festive stamps that featured Santa Claus and snowmen. Four days later the Archbishop of York (again) attacked the rights of businesses and individuals to send secular or non-Christian Christmas cards. By December the Daily Mail was complaining that only 1 in 100 Christmas cards in shops depicted religious themes, never mind that the British public seemingly prefer secular themes.
In 2005 the campaign was launched by, yes you guessed it, the Daily Mail on November 2 with claims that Lambeth council had renamed its Christmas lights in order to avoid causing "offence".
For any tabloid hack writing a War on Christmas story it is apparently compulsory to include references to a PC campaign to re-name Christmas..."Winterval". The evil geniuses behind this campaign are said to be Birmingham City Council. This is because winterval came to prominence in 1998 when Birmingham City Council used it as a title to encompass the three month collection of multi-faith and secular events, running from October to January, and including Diwali, Bonfire Night, New Year and other seasonal events as well as Christmas itself. Winterval ran for 2 years - 1997 to 1998 and was intended as a way to drive business into Birmingham's newly rejuvenated town centre.
But what's facts got to with it. Oliver Burkeman on the Guardian set out to investigate the facts behind the War on Christmas stories, and found them to be a load of old baubles:
."..a few awkward facts. Luton does not have a festival called Luminos. It does not use any alternative name for Christmas. When it did, once, five years ago, hold something called Luminos one weekend in late November, the event didn't even replace the council's own Christmas celebrations, let alone forbid anyone else from doing anything. Similarly, Christmas is not called Winterval in Birmingham. The Royal Edinburgh Hospital for Sick Children never banned a Christmas CD for mentioning Jesus. And Chester council's "un-Christian" Christmas card says - as cards have done for decades - "Season's Greetings".
"We're not going to have a war, we're going to have the appearance of a war," says the cynical spin doctor in David Mamet's screenplay for the 1997 movie Wag The Dog, about an imaginary conflict created to whip up support for an ailing president. But he might equally have been talking about the 2006 war on Christmas - a war that tells us much about the growing politicisation and sense of entitlement among religious groups in Britain, but which turns out to have been almost entirely invented."
So, when's it going to start? There can be no question of if or maybe, we know for sure that bishops and archbishops will make alliance with journalists to play fast and loose with the facts and launch another phoney War on Christmas. The ironic thing about all this is that there really appears to be absolutely no war on traditional Christian activities, but there is a crusade against the secular Christmas much enjoyed and valued by most Brits.
Let's keep our collective ears to the ground and see who fires the first shots in this year's annual pantomime of nonsense. Perhaps we should develop an idiot award for bloggers, bishops and hacks who trot out the winterval myths...perhaps an award for being a winterval wally, the Wallies for short?