Christmas? Yes Please!

Andrew Johnson, the leader of Harlow Council, has just published this fantastic letter. Have a read.


We are now reaching that time of year when Christmas lights are switched on across the country – but some councils choose to keep the Christian basis of December 25th shrouded in darkness. While other cultural festivals are celebrated with local authority support throughout the year, an eerie silence descends on some town halls at the approach of Christmas.

As a council leader, I think the public are now heartily weary of local authorities who believe they are striking a blow for diversity by watering down Christmas. Council tax payers do not want to see their money going to subsidise anodyne “winterval” style events which set the gold standard for politically correct blandness.

In Harlow, we are supporting a traditional nativity play in the town; arranging for local schools to sing carols in the town centre and providing the civic centre for a special carol service. I don’t believe this constitutes a sleight to residents from different backgrounds. It is patronising to suppose that minority faiths will be offended by the celebration of a festival which lies at the heart of this country’s national identity. Those of different traditions have no problem with that; it is craven local authorities that appear not to grasp it.

Councils exist to provide value for money services and give a lead to regeneration in these economically challenging times. Celebrating the Christian basis of Christmas is something I believe our residents want us to do; the undermining of a celebration enjoyed by most of the country on the grounds it might give offence is a piece of town hall idiocy they can do without.

Merry Christmas!

Cllr Andrew Johnson
Leader, Harlow Council

Andrew’s letter hits the nail on the head – yes, we live in a multi-cultural society, but if we’re going to being multi-cultural let’s celebrate a bit of the religious and cultural heritage of this land!

I did some digging around, and here’s some examples of councils with a less progressive attitude then Harlow.

  • 2008 – Tower Hamlets insisted it’s staff not eat around Muslim employees during Ramadan, made arrangements for Islamic prayer during council meetings (all of these things commendable) yet at the same time renamed the “Christmas Party” as a “Festive meal”
  • 2008 – Oxford changed it’s Christmas celebrations to a “Winter Lights Festival”. This produced criticism from town Christian AND muslim groups
  • November 2005 – Islington Council bans Christmas lights and replaces them with “festive decorations”
  • December 2004 – Peterborough City Council bans staff from sending each other Christmas greetings by email
  • December 2003 – Buckinghamshire County Council banned a church from publicising its Christmas services on a community notice board to avoid offending other religions
  • And who can forget the furore when Birmingham had “Winterval” in the late 90s

No, good on Andrew Johnson – not shoving it down people’s faces but neither just packing up shop and forgetting that the festival is ultimately the Feast of the Nativity of the Christ.

1 Comment on “Christmas? Yes Please!

  1. It should be noted that "Winterval" was a catch-all marketing term for events stretching from November through to February, including lots of specifically Christmas events. In fact, 99% of press stories about things like this turn out to be either untrue or to be a complete misrepresentation of what's going on.

    I wouldn't be surprised if the Islington example was a case of having Divali lights alongside Christmas ones (as happens in many towns and cities), or if the banning of sending Christmas messages by e-mail was simply one way to reduce the amount of junk e-mail going through the council's IT system.

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