Happy Winter Secular Greetings of The Season!

Yes, Dan knows which buttons to press for me, suggesting that I talk about the “Winter” festivals that are springing up all over the shop this time of year.

We’re having one here in the Nag’s Head (sorry, “NewcastleGateshead”) — the Glow event is pitched as the “Winter Festival 2006″. Although to be fair to the organisers, they’ve not gone overboard in their secularisation of the event — it still features “Christmas performances”, for example.

Of course, it’s worth visiting the Winter Festival site, if only to watch the Vampire Rabbit Funny Video. Yes, that’s the Vampire Rabbit Funny Video. No, I can’t explain it. Just go and look.

Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked. It was really the secularisation of Christmas I was going to bang on about. Christmas is a Christian festival (admittedly, shifted in time to coincide with an earlier pagan festival, but what it is celebrating is Christian in nature). The clue is actually in the titles: Jesus Christ; Christian and Christmas. Do you see?

Anyway, I guess what I really wanted to say was if all you Godless Heathens out there want to have some time off work, a nice big Christmas dinner, and to veg out in front of the telly with the Bond film on, then you can’t. I’m sorry, but the whole thing is that it’s about Christmas. It’s about the baby Jesus. It’s the nativity thing, yes?

Now, I’m prepared to compromise. You Godless Heathens, pagans, heretics, and followers of other religions can join in the festivities if you like. You just have to accept that it’s a Christian festival, and it’s called Christmas.

After all, we’d never dream in our society of insisting that Diwali was celebrated in a secular way “for fear of causing offence”, or that Ramadan was celebrated in a secular way, or for that matter that people shouldn’t be allowed to publicly proclaim their atheism “for fear of causing offence”, so why is it that the Christians are targeted?

Oh, I’m not claiming that the Bible is a historical fact – in fact watch this space for discussions of non-canonical gospels over the next month or so –I’m just claiming that Christmas is a religious festival. You don’t have to observe it, of course, just the same as no-one is expecting you to observe Diwali or Ramadan if you’re not Hindu or Muslim. But if you do choose to observe it, it seems more than a little churlish not to acknowledge that it is a Christian festival.

But does anyone actually treat it in an entirely secular manner? Or is this one of the standard myths trotted out at this time of year, by the miserable puritanical people who won’t be happy until everyone is attending mass on Christmas morning instead of trying your best to have a lie in while small children bounce on your chest shouting…

“has he been yet Dad? Has he been yet?”

And it’s always far too early. In fact, so much so, that the most accurate response might sometimes be:

“it’s half past three in the morning! Christmas isn’t for another …” (looks at watch) “… four and a half months.”

Anyway, does anyone actually try and scrub the “Christmasness” out of Christmas? MY first thought was probably not, but I decided the only way to actually find out would be to actually scour the web for a few of these Christmas/Winter festival thingies and see what they had to say.

But on investigation it did appear that the “Christmasness” of the various “Winter Festivals” was minimised, with nothing that had explicit overtones of religion likely to be included. So we have “Winter light shows”, we have a few “Christmas decorations” or lights dotted around, but only a very few have a carol service.

Now I don’t object to public bodies not wanting to give preference to any particular religion. That’s fair enough: they ought to represent everyone equally, fairly and in an even-handed manner — including the heretics and the heathens.

(Incidentally, please please note that I’m using the phrase heretics and heathens to describe followers of other religions and atheists in a tongue-in-cheek manner. I know there are people out there who won’t have spotted the fact that was done deliberately for the comic value, so I thought I’d better point it out …)

So I’m not suggesting by any stretch of the imagination that any specific religion should be favoured, but I am suggesting that when we are celebrating Christmas we should bloody well call it Christmas and stop pretending we’re celebrating an imaginary Winter festival.

And how do we ensure that other religions are treated fairly?

Well we could follow the example of the nursery my children go to, where they are taught about the different religious festivals that different religions celebrate throughout the year, and are encouraged to take part in — BTP made a crown for Diwali this year. Wouldn’t that help us all to understand one another and break down racial and religious intolerance? Isn’t that a better idea than trying to suppress religion? Of course, in the interests of fairness, we’d need to throw in some festivals for atheists and agnostics too, so we have time to explore their beliefs as well …

6 Responses to “Happy Winter Secular Greetings of The Season!”

  1. Steve responds:

    Good to see you’ve got your blogging muse back :-)

  2. Tim Beadle responds:

    ** applauds **

    You talk sense, Jack. Keep it up!

  3. Anthony responds:

    Our little council just got caught up in this little storm’o'excrement.

    All we did was write “Season’s Greetings” on our annual corporate card - like we have done for at least the last FIVE years - and all of a sudden we are featured in the Daily Express, Talk Sport and even sodding This Morning.

    We were basically accused of canceling Christmas 2006 single handedly.

    As far as I’m concerned Seaso’n Greetings is a perfectly traditional and recognised way of saying Happy Christmas - but the next thing we know we are getting bombarded by every nut case Christian in the country denouncing us as the bosom of the anti-Christ.

    Or something.

    So it works both ways.

    But I totally agree with what you’re saying.

    Any way I bunged up last years big Merry Christmas masthead within 10 minutes of the first call.

    [ED: Fixed link for you, Anthony]

  4. Anthony responds:

    I really should check things before clicking Submit…

    Note to self: always remember to put http://

  5. Mike responds:

    I promise not to have a nativity scene outside my house and I won’t go to Mass. In turn I will, of course, be expecting the Christians to keep their hands off my yule log, mistletoe, Santa outfit, raucous partying, gluttonous eating and drinking, and gift-giving while I’m out getting bladdered in the name of the Baby Jeebus.

  6. Guesty responds:

    So I was surfing the net in hopes of finding some facts about this whole “Winterfest” thing, when I stumbled across this blog and thought:

    “Well I’ll be, people with the same views as me who’s opinions are never actually voiced in public.”

    God bless the internet…

    I live in the midlands, a few miles from Birmingham and although I haven’t actually seen them with my own eyes (so don’t take this as 100% truth) I have been told that Birmingham City Centre xmas decorations have had the word Christmas removed and replaced with “Winterfest” or “Winter Festival” or some such crap.

    I actually find this offensive and sacriligious that my major religious holiday is being changed by force, and I would like to say that, just like the christians of ancient Rome, I will be seen nailed to a cross in the city centre before I abandon my religious holiday!

    If anyone wants to join me in protest please feel free! I’ve seen ‘The Life of Brian’ and subsequently think that a group crucifixion is one ace way to have a Christmas party.

    “Always look on the bright side of life…”

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