My grumpy Christmas

Clegg family Xmas card 2013I really do not like the practice adopted by most party leaders of sending out Christmas cards adorned with portraits of themselves and their families.   Having caught a glimpse of the card sent by Charles and Camilla this year, it seems this is not limited to politicians, but it is certainly not widespread amongst the rest of us.

Most of us send cards that illustrate the significance of the season, drawing on religious or mid-winter symbolism.  So why do politicians usurp the underlying message of peace and hope with their blatant  acts of self-promotion? Even Nick Clegg’s ironic take this year, which was charming and playful – and yes, I did receive one of those through the post – was still saying ‘look at me’.

There are subtler ways of harnessing the power of the Christmas card. Many MPs invite children in local schools to submit Christmas card designs, and the winner has the pleasure of seeing their card in print and sent to hundreds, if not thousands, of local people.  This gives a great message to constituents – the self-effacing MP supports local schools, likes to encourage young people, and endorses the true meaning of Christmas.

Whilst I’m being a grump, I also want to take stand against ‘Happy Holiday’.  I was on an international conference call last week and at the end the Americans all wished us just that, whilst the Europeans unashamedly wished ‘Merry Christmas’ to everyone. Of course, we all have to show sensitivity to the range of faiths and cultures in the UK, but 25th December really is a Christian festival named after the title given to its founder, so why pretend otherwise?

Who, if anyone, is actually offended if I wish them ‘Merry Christmas’?  As a Christian I have attended many Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Ba’hai services and festivals and would be rather touched if someone wished me ‘Happy Diwali’, ‘Shabbat Shalom’ or ‘Eid Mubarak’, and I would be happy to reciprocate. I send Christmas cards that speak of love, joy and peace to Jewish, Muslim and Hindu friends – and they send cards to me. What’s not to like?

Tomorrow, the (Liberal Democrat) Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, like many other mayors, will be spending several hours visiting Christmas lunch projects around the Borough. I’m not sure what is happening this year, but when it was my turn, my escort for the day was Rabbi Danny Rich, the Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism. Danny is a well-known local figure and he had volunteered for this duty for many years so that the usual driver could spend the day with his family. He would say: “I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I’m very happy to help other people enjoy it.”

So I wish all of you, not just a Happy Holiday, but a very Merry Christmas.



* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames where she is still very active with the local party.

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  • Graham Martin-Royle 24th Dec '13 - 9:26am

    Whilst I’m being a grump, I also want to take stand against ‘Happy Holiday’.

    Oh noes, it’s the war against christmas, now brought to these shores! Happy Holidays has been a greeting at this time of year (along with Seasons Greetings) for pretty much all my life (I’m nudging up against 60) so why are you getting upset now? As for your assertions that this is a christian festival try reading this article which pretty much demolishes that idea.

    And if you’re still so upset that people ignore the “christ” in christmas, will you be giving worship to Woden on the 25? After all, it is his day, the hint is given in the name of the day.

    This is a great time of year for everyone and it doesn’t matter what people call it or what greetings they give. Get off your grumpy horse and enjoy it.

    Happy crimbo!

  • Christine Headley 24th Dec '13 - 3:40pm

    I liked the Clegg Christmas card online, but was rather disconcerted to receive a hard copy. Even with the reduced membership (though said to be increasing again), I’m surprised LDHQ doesn’t have anything better to spend all that postage money on.

  • Paul In Twickenham 24th Dec '13 - 5:11pm

    “Yule” comes from Norse meaning “feast” and is also related to Odin/Wotan. Bleedin’ Vikings coming over here and taking our er…

  • Simon Banks 25th Dec '13 - 3:17pm


    That is rather partisan. The following is clear about Christmas. It draws on and imitates various pagan midwinter festivals. This was done quite openly and deliberately when Christianity was being introduced to new areas, and the argument was often made that Christian ways were not contradicting and nullifying old familiar ways, but completing and developing them. One might wish that later missionaries had been as broad-minded. The choice of 25 December for Christmas reflects these pagan traditions, since the actual date of Jesus’ birth is unknown.

    However, if we knew the origins of Diwali, for instance, we might well find similar influences from earlier religious practices and ideas. Some Sikh festivals draw on Hindu traditions but give them new meanings, much as Christian Christmas does. The fact that Christmas picks up all sorts of things from earlier traditions in no way contradicts that it’s meaning is predominately Christian. It is the date on which Christians and others celebrate the birth of Jesus, said to be the Christ.

    Most of the adherents of other religions I know respect and recognise, even celebrate, Christmas as a Christian festival in the same way (as Mary says) that she may celebrate Diwali with Hindu friends. I can see no reason why non-Christians of other faith or none should have problems with the celebration of a Christian festival, just as I can see no reason why Christians should turn their backs on the elements of ancient nature-religion in the celebration. In any case, the generally accepted name for a holiday on 25 December (or two weeks later in parts of Eastern Europe thanks to a different calendar) is “Christmas”. In talking about August I don’t necessarily endorse Augustus Caesar’s suppression of the Roman Republic.

    As for Happy Holiday, the problem is that this could apply to any holiday, not necessarily even a common one. I could wish “Happy Holiday!” to someone who’d taken two weeks off work to go to foreign beaches.

  • Simon Banks 25th Dec '13 - 3:18pm

    Oh gosh – misplaced apostrophe in “it’s”. OTHER PEOPLE MAKE THAT MISTAKE!!!

  • Jayne Mansfield 25th Dec '13 - 4:24pm

    Why send Christmas cards at all?

    I have at last had the courage to say no and give the equivalent plus stamp money money to charity. When looking down the Christmas card list, this amounted to a considerable sum, when it included those who made the same decision before me.

    I have always found it particularly ludicrous when people have handed cards to me t the same time as saying merry christmas.

    Also, many of my relatives have gone one further and I am now the proud donator of mosquito nets and beds for a night for homeless people. Excellent presents for someone my age who wants for little.

  • Graham Martin-Royle 26th Dec '13 - 4:38pm

    @Simon Banks:

    “That is rather partisan. ”

    No more so than the original article.

    “it’s meaning is predominately Christian. ”

    It may have been once but I would contend that most people celebrating christmas are no longer christians celebrating the birth of their god. That was the point I was making with the quip about wodan, words change their meaning over time, nobody seriously thinks that today (Thursday) is really marking the god Thor’s day so why the insistence that christmas must never change its meaning.

    Both Mary and yourself seem fixated on the idea that others may be trying to ruin and spoil christmas for christians, importing the US stance of a war on christmas. There is no war on christmas. You are free to celebrate it how you like, if for you that means celebrating the birth of your god, go for it, no one is stopping you. No one I know gets upset by having Merry Christmas said, so why do you get upset by having Happy Holidays said? As I said, it’s a greeting, a wish for you to have a good time. Are you seriously suggesting that you don’t want someone to wish you well? If you and Mary really want to see who it is that is spoiling this time of year for you both, then may I suggest you look in a mirror.

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