Twinkling Christmas lights, the cinnamon smell of mulled wine in the air and bobble-hats aplenty: the surest signs that the festive season is upon us – aren’t they? No. The best indicator that the holiday period has arrived is seeing a Guardian article topped with the warning: ‘Spoiler alert: this article may ruin childhood dreams.’ I’m already feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.
The warning comes from academics Christopher Boyle and Kathy McKay, who claim parents who lie to their children about the existence of Santa Claus risk ruining their relationship with them. The pair argue that propagating the Santa myth is morally suspect and a betrayal of trust; they also condemn the idea of a ‘“terrifying” North Pole intelligence agency which judges children to be nice or naughty’, said a report in the Independent. The academics say: ‘If they [parents] are capable of lying about something so special and magical, can they be relied upon to continue as the guardians of wisdom and truth?’ Well, quite. No wonder the NSPCC has reported a spike in calls to Childline.
Last week, prime minister Theresa May did her best to stick up for the Christmas spirit when she told MPs that people should feel free to talk about Christmas. This was in response to an equalities watchdog report which said politically correct employers were dropping the word ‘Christmas’ in favour of more neutral terms like ‘Winterval and ‘Season’s Greetings’, prompting MP Fiona Bruce to say that some Christians felt ‘fearful’ of talking about their religion in public.
The anti-yuletide press has already hit back at the PM for daring to defend Christmas. Mark Steel wrote in the Independent: ‘For too long, brave Christmas rebels have been forced to crawl behind the coffee machine to whisper “tinsel” as an act of defiance, like dissidents in Soviet Russia. Paratroopers swoop across buildings on zip-wires to break into offices and put a tiny Christmas tree outside the toilet.’
Guardian columnist Gaby Hinsliff called it an ‘imaginary threat’ and compared, ‘complaints about school PTAs renaming their Christmas fundraisers “winter fayres”’ to ‘moaning about having to cater for a vegetarian at Christmas lunch: it’s an irritable reaction to being asked to adapt to the presence and beliefs of others’. Not really. No-one expects Jews to change the name of Chanukah, or Hindus, Diwali, to try to include other faiths in their festival, or so as not to offend anyone. And surely followers of other religions are just as able and welcome to join in the holiday fun, while still acknowledging that its roots are Christian?