De-Christianization of Christmas
Fr Pawel Rozpiatkowski
Christmas without Christmas? Yes, it is possible. The City Council of Oxford voted for it. From this year Christmas becomes Winter Light Festival. The justification is an old song: not to offend religious feelings of other religions. But the representatives of other religions protest against depriving Christmas of the elements of Christmas. Sabir Hussain Mirza, leader of the Muslim Council of Oxford, says that it is going to be a disaster. He does not hide his anger and disappointment, Rabbi Eli Brancknell supports the representative of Islam, stressing that the decision of the Oxford City Council is not positive for the British identity. ‘It would have been better if it had been done in the name of atheism’, commented Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture. This is one of the first pieces of information about experiments concerning Christmas this year since it was the first to get to the news. Modern history teaches that the closer we get to Christmas the more information we receive. It is hard to resist the impression that stupidity develops when we approach winter. If it were only stupidity. One can often suspect that it is bad will. Recently, the biggest number of cases of de-sacralisation of Christmas has been recorded in the United States, Canada and Great Britain. Politicians, local governments and managements of big shopping companies support this policy. The first group removes all religious references to Christmastide from their official documents and their subordinate public centres like hospitals and schools. The term ‘Christmas’ is usually transmulated into the neutral – in their opinion – term ‘winter holidays’. Carols are censored in schools. The Christmas tree cannot feel secure, either. Called ‘Christmas tree’ by the Anglo-Saxons is often renamed as a holiday tree or winter tree. Father Christmas and the tradition of giving presents have been safe so far but only because it has been deprived of religious contents. Big shopping centres behave in a similar way: they forbid their workers to use the traditional English Christmas greeting ‘Merry Christmas’ replacing it with the neutral ‘happy holidays.’ A similar mechanism is used in advertisements cleansed from any traces that could lead to the observation that this holiday time is connected with the birth of Christ. Political correctness celebrates more triumphs. One of the most publicised and most absurd cases was the order not to show the nativity scene in public schools in New York in 2002. The image of Christians, in the opinion of the decision-makers, infringed the principle of the separation between State and religion. But the Jewish and Muslim symbols, which can be shown in schools without any limitations, did not infringe the principle. Various attitudes towards religious symbols were justified by the fact that the Jewish and Muslim ones had secular character whereas Christian symbols are purely religious. The case was taken to court that gave the verdict, which was unfavourable to Christians. In 2007 one of the public primary schools in Ottawa went even far in the war against Christmas because it taught its children’s choir a traditional carol adjusted to ‘new times’. That adjustment was to censor the carol and remove the term ‘Christmas’ from its lyrics. In turn in Somerset in Britain a teacher forbid children to send Christmas cards because of care for natural environment. The parents raised a protest suggesting that the teachers should look for other fields to educate children’s sensitivity to ecology. Many Christian groups fight against secularisation of Christmas. Some even call it ‘war for Christmas’ and mobilise Christians speaking about ‘siege of Christmas’. Are these statements justified? The fact is that it is hard to justify the reasons why the authorities of Oxford axed Christmas when even the representatives of other religions were surprised and did not accept this decision, which allegedly was to meet their needs. All things indicate that it was only a pretext and the real reason was different. Christmas does not offend the feelings of other believers. One can see that in their statements concerning the decision of the City Council of Oxford. It has been also shown in the research concerning the multi-cultural American society. About 95 % of Americans declare to celebrate Christmas. And Christians constitute 75% of the American society. Efforts to preserve religious references even in commercial culture are more and more successful. For instance, actions and threat of boycott influence big shopping companies that give up their strict orders to remove certain words and pictures from their commercial campaigns. In 2005, the Catholic League protested against the biggest American shopping company Wal-Mart. For several years its advertisements did not contain the word ‘Christmas’. Due to the pressure, criticism and threat of boycott the firm changed its strategy. Recently some other shopping companies have changed their attitudes because of the pressure of the mobilised public opinion.