‘Little c’ christmas is fine – it is ‘Big C’ Christmas that people fear disappearing

Look, I enjoy laughing about “The War on Christmas” as much as anyone. Is anything funnier than knowing that you are annoying someone by wishing them a “Wonderful Winterval”?

Or explaining that it is only because of political correctness that we have to call “Christmas Pies” the dreadful modern name of mince pies instead?

And I had a lengthy Twitter war last year extolling the virtues of Xmas in BRITCUCKISTAN™ with one American @dionwal who seemed convinced we couldn’t celebrate it anymore because of the Muslims. A theme Twitter returned to today.

But it’s worth reading this piece by Gaby Hinsliff about how sneering about it is counter-productive:

“Whenever politicians position themselves as standing up for Christmas, some will almost certainly interpret that as asserting the supremacy of Christianity over minority faiths and by extension of minorities themselves, even though May pointedly mentioned the ‘very strong tradition in this country of religious tolerance’. But many others will simply hear a vaguely reassuring message that Christmas isn’t about to change; a promise to defend overcooked sprouts and snowball fights, O Come All Ye Faithful and grandchildren being forced to write proper thankyou cards rather than beastly emails.”

“The War on Christmas” is maybe an area that smug metropolitan liberals might consider that we are again talking at cross-purposes to many of the people that we are poking fun of. I think the two groups are talking about entirely different Christmases.

It’s self-evidently true to us that you can’t move for Christmas, and the idea that it is being banned is ludicrous. But that is what I’d call ‘small c’ commercial Christmas.

My kids are doing Christmas shows at school – a school which quite clearly hasn’t ‘banned’ Christmas.

And yet I remember doing a nativity play at my ordinary East End state school, and singing hymns like “There is a green hill far away” at Easter. There won’t be anything like at my kids’ Christmas show, I’ll bet. (Especially not Easter hymns, I suppose.)

The costume requirement is for dressing up to an Xmas party, and my daughter is learning to sing Brenda Lee and Shakin’ Stevens. I approve of both the song choices, but it is indicative that their school Christmas show will have almost zero religious content, if any at all.

Now, you might, like me, be of the opinion that religion in school is best served by teaching kids about different religions from the point of view of historical accuracy rather than faith, rather than teaching kids to have a religion, but we should at least be honest about that.

The Christmas that I happily enjoy celebrating with my family is an almost entirely secular one. It is Santa Claus and a special Doctor Who episode and The Waitresses and there’s very little room for baby Jesus in a stable. We are trying to teach our kids that kindness and sharing are an integral part of Christmas, but that’s because we think it is a good opportunity to pass on our values, not because of a church-delivered message of personal salvation.

But when people talk about Christmas being banned, they are talking about ‘big C’ Christmas – the religious nature of Christmas being in the forefront of national life. Schools not doing the nativity. A lack of sombre religious programming on the airwaves. Brands saying “Happy Holidays!” to customers out of inclusivity.

Religious scenes not appearing on Christmas cards doesn’t bother me, for example, I wouldn’t have picked them anyway, but their supposed diminishing appearance is why people will dig their heels in and share something on Facebook saying “I won’t be stopped from sharing religious images at Christmas”

I think it’s another example of the disconnection between town and country, between leave and remain, between the comfortably atheist modernist middle class and those who are more rooted in what they consider tradition. So next time you see Peter Hitchens or someone of his ilk saying that Christmas is disappearing, before reflexively dismissing him as a silly old coot, think about which Christmas it is that they actually mean.

Sure, let’s laugh about Winterval and the Coca-Cola lorries and the annual “rubbish Winter Wonderland rip-off” stories. But let’s be aware that we aren’t talking about the same christmas that the people who miss “Big C” Christmas are talking about.

Anyway, a Merry Christmas to all of you at home, however and whatever you celebrate.