I wrote on Saturday about Eric Pickles's pandering to tabloid mythology when it came to the 'War on Christmas'. Many of my fellow media bloggers have written about just how wrong Pickles is; Primly Stable has written to Eric Pickles very politely correcting him on his wrongness, for example.
But it got me thinking: if there really were a little War on Christmas, would it be such a bad thing?
I don't mean literally a war on Christmas. That would be bad. Well, if you could literally have a War on Christmas, which I doubt you could. But still. Anything which meant that Christians couldn't celebrate Christmas, or were afraid to rejoice in the appearance of the little be-haloed babber in the cow shed, would be terrible. No, I mean, what if the so-called politically correct brigade dared to let us all recognise that Christmas wasn't just about Him, and was also about other stuff. Would that be so wrong?
I speak as someone who proudly appeared as the Virgin Mary in my primary school nativity play (it was an all boys' school, all right?) and who uttered the immortal words: "I will do the Lord's bidding" before nearly dropping the infant Jesus into the front row of dewy-eyed parents. There's nothing wrong with nativity plays - very nice story, and all that - or nativity scenes, or going to church, or singing Christmas carols, or using the word 'Christmas' rather than 'Yuletide' or anything like that. Nothing wrong with any of it, and I know it's a wonderful celebration for an awful lot of people. That's great, and no-one's trying to take that away from anyone.
But... that isn't everything about this time of year and the traditional celebrations. It isn't solely about the birth of Jesus of Nazareth - there are a whole lot of other winter traditions that take place at exactly the same time as Christmas, ancient stuff and modern stuff too; and besides, the birth of Christ probably didn't take place on December 25, if it happened at all. It seems a bit silly for people to demand that we celebrate the birth of Jesus, and only the birth of Jesus, at this time of year; it smacks, a bit, of flexing our cultural muscles to slap down minorities and demand they do the same as us.
Just as our Springfest Easter eggs have been appropriated by Christianity as 'symbols of the tomb', so a lot of our other pagan Winterfest gubbins has been scooped up too - the 'Christmas' tree and the Yule log, for example. Just as it's not wrong to think of Xmas* as being a little boy in a manger, it's not wrong to think of it as Papa Noel, or Father Christmas (not Saint Nicholas!), or tinsel, or snowmen, or Wizzard, or Christmas trees, or snowflakes, or cheerful robins on cards, or In The Bleak Midwinter, Frosty Wind Made Moan, or It's A Wonderful Life, or Shirley Bassey sticking her foot through the floor in the Morecambe and Wise Christmas special, or decorations, or turkey, or sausages wrapped in bacon, or plum duff, or crackers, or The Two Ronnies, or any, or all, of that jazz.
Why not? We all see Christmas in different ways. For a lot of us it isn't necessarily a devoted religious festival, which doesn't mean we don't respect the rights of those who do see it that way; it just means there's room for both. It's as much Noddy Holder on the radio and Only Fools and Horses on the TV as it is turning up for Midnight Mass; it's as much giving presents and being slightly disappointed with terrible socks as it is devoting a day to remembering the birth of our Lord.
I think there's room for lots of religious fun and lots of fun for everyone else as well. I don't want to be a po-faced atheist sitting like Scrooge and saying Bah Humbug to it all; I love the idea of lots of Christians having fun in their celebrations, and besides, I want some bloody presents and an excuse to cane a bottle of ruby port, all right? But I think it's not fair, either, for anyone to think that if you don't celebrate Christmas religiously, you're not celebrating it properly. No-one's banning Christmas. Being inclusive to other faiths doesn't mean you're being somehow disrespectful to the beardy guy with the holes in his hands; it just means you're thinking of others, which I'd say is quite a Christian attitude.
Anyway, there you go. Crack out the eggnog and the mince pies, and let us make merry. December is nearly upon us and I'm about to raid the advent calendar. Can we just forget about the 'war on Christmas' this year, and have a festive Winterfest truce? Here's hoping...
* Also: there's nothing wrong with Xmas. The X stands for the Greek letter Chi, meaning Christ, so it's just a bloody abbreviation already. It's not 'taking the Christ out of Christmas' as a billion green-ink letter writers will have you believe.