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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Bah Humbug

'The government's Sure Start programme - which Gordon Brown devised to raise educational standards among poorer families - funds playgroups and pre-school education groups across the country. But there is no national policy on Christmas, and staff running individual groups are left to produce their own programme of events. Sheffield's Gleadless Valley Sure Start Centre did not use the word 'Christmas' when promoting its "winter celebration" in a newsletter.'

Now I KNOW this is a classic “Are A levels getting easier?” type of story that they whip out every year, and as such should be ignored, but what the hell. I’ll bite.
Of course it is ludicrous to suggest that non-Christians would be upset about celebrating a seemingly overtly ‘Christian’ festival.
I mean, for one thing, 25th December was actually a pagan festival that was hijacked by Christianity in the first place as Jesus’s ‘birthday’. So, like most things about Christian celebration in this country, it’s actually a mishmash of lots of different customs and traditions that quite often pre-date Christianity.
I suppose that in itself suggests that calling Christmas a ‘winter’ festival is technically more accurate, if you really want to be a great big pedant. However, I don’t think that’s quite the idea.
One presumes ‘the idea’ (if there is one) is that people are worried that super-sensitive members of the other two major monotheistic faiths in our society, Judaism and Islam, are deeply offended by the sight of a Christmas tree in their school playground or office foyer.

Course they’re bloody not. Any more than a Christian would be offended by people celebrating Hannukah or Eid. (which, last I checked, they hadn’t tried to ban). Jewish members of my family are celebrating Christmas this year, as they do every year, and while they’re not planning on settling down to a pork supper, they’re certainly not planning on missing out on a socially all-encompassing eat-and-drink-yourself-stupid free-for-all any more than the next man. The lucky bastards just get to do Hannukah as well.

And frankly, that brings me to my next point: if Christmas is for Christians (and as such ought not to be imposed on non-Christian people), then the vast majority of British society wouldn’t celebrate it. We’re a nation of agnostics, for Christ’s sake (yes, I see the irony in the sentence). Hardly anyone goes to church in this country, and those that do are mostly middle class parents worried about getting Jocasta or Timothy into the right school.

So what does that make Christmas? Simple. A highly commercialised annual ‘winter’ festival (with Christian overtones) that everyone enjoys and everyone – including the non-orthodox members of other faiths – celebrates. We celebrate it because it’s fun, it's a holiday, it makes retailers a lot of money, and is sponsored by Coca Cola. Oh, and we get to get pissed a lot.
Nobody’s upset and nobody really cares what you call it. So if you’re listening Mr and Mrs politically-correct civil servant, don’t do daft things like ban Christmas in schools. All you do is get Daily Mail readers all riled about the perceived erosion of Britain's social fabric, incite racism and, frankly, make yourself look bloody stupid.
Now pass the port…

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