Every year, along with the resurrection of the dreary fuss about Christmas songs, we are subjected to an annual dose of whinging about ditching the word Christmas because it, eh, has the word Christ right there in the name.
It’s offensive, the killjoys claim, to call this 2,000 year old celebration by its actual name because not everyone is Christian and every event and every holiday must be totally inclusive and diverse and woke.
What a load of nonsense. (I could use a different word but I’m not inclined to add to the unfestive feelings). The truth is that it’s not Muslims or Jews or Sikhs who object to the word Christmas, it’s the usual suspects who seem to have a pathological dislike of anything that retains even the vestiges of Catholicism.
Saqib Bhatti, a British MP who is a Muslim, recently said that the abandonment of the word ‘Christmas’ in pursuit of greater ‘inclusivity’ was “ridiculous”.
“As a Muslim, I find it ridiculous we can’t enjoy this special time of year. I look forward to showing my new son his first Christmas tree. The idea you can’t mention Christmas is completely ridiculous,” he said He also called for the establishment to “stop waging war on Christmas”.
“Waging war” might seem like a strong word until you consider that the EU Commission, a hugely powerful body whose decisions have considerable impact, recently proposed guidelines which sought to advise officials to ditch the word “Christmas” in a bid to “avoid assuming that everyone is Christian.
It encouraged staff to refrain from using phrases such as “Christmas time can be stressful” and to plump for the banal and utterly lame “Holiday times” instead,
To which I say ‘bah humbug’. And what’s more, I’d add that if you don’t like the word Christmas, get your own bloomin’ holiday.
It seems extraordinary that it needs to be explained to anyone older than a toddler but Christmas is explicitly a Christian holiday, one loved and cherished because it celebrates such a beautiful, powerful story – of God being born to us as a helpless child in a manger in Bethlehem.
Other religions also have significant feasts: Hindu people celebrate Diwali, Muslims have Eid, Jews the Passover – and people of faith celebrate important dates and events which are often peculiar to a region or a tribe.
Why would any reasonable person try to diminish or interfere with that? In fact, most of the people complaining about the use of the word Christmas would likely have a fit at any criticism of other religious feasts.
There’s a perfectly fair criticism to be made of the crass commercialisation that has almost overtaken the spirit of Christmas. The endless advertising which seeks to make the jingle all about the cash register. The conspicuous consumption that is very far removed from the humble stable where a child who changed the world was born.
But one of the reasons Mass attendance is highest at Christmas is because, deep down, most people in this country feel a strong pull towards the message of Bethlehem: one of love and sacrifice and courage and hope. And they recognise that the message, as well as the tradition, is worth holding onto. It’s not just another made-up celebration used to sell cards and gifts. Christmas has meaning.
The things we actually love at Christmas can’t be bought and sold. Making Christmas cake with Mamó, and stirring the pudding. Walking home from Midnight Mass with your breath crystal cold in the air. Hot port and the warmth of friends. Angels being heard on high.
So for all the complainers, here’s a suggestion. Ditch the Happy Holiday cards and the Winterval stuff, and let people enjoy Christmas for what it is. A time for family and feasting, and glitter and joy, but also of reflection and of learning to celebrate, as Kavanagh said, wherever life pours ordinary plenty.
If you are so desperate to have a winter festival without Christ, then set up something new, and fill it with tinsel and spending and politically-correct celebration. I’ll stick with Christmas.