Here comes the non-gender specific parent of Winterval!

That's it! I must download the whole thing NOW! And then send this guy around to every editor on Fleet Street

Ho ho ho, children! Merry Winterval, you naughty motherf-!

It's December, so it must be time to start sandbagging the front doors and boarding up your windows against the PC police if you want to celebrate Christmas, since it has been banned because of Muslims and black people.

It's probably just a matter of days before the Sun kicks off this year's campaign to frighten thick people by offering cash to readers to blow the whistle on one set of organisations or another. Last year, the paper called for stories about schools banning nativity plays because of 'other faiths'. The year before, it was workplaces banning Christmas decorations because of those oogedy-boogedy 'other faiths'.

Of course, the paper came up with zip both times. In 2006, even though a survey was heavily trailed in newspapers that claimed to show that three quarters of companies in the UK were binning the decorations for fear of causing offence to those phantom other religions, the phone wasn't exactly ringing off the hook. The best the paper could do was one Job Centre that said no to tinsel because it might make poor people feel bad. Last year, with PC Goons apparently banning Christmas plays all over the place, the paper couldn't manage much more than a school stopping the angels in it's nativity from wearing fairy wings in case they caught fire.

I wonder what organisations are left for this year. I hope it's chip shops, so we can have stories about how they have BANNED turkey and stuffing to REPLACE them with foreign KEBABS and JAMAICAN PATTIES, including quotes from bewildered chip shop owners buried at the bottom saying, "Of course we don't serve turkey and stuffing. We're a chip shop!" Especially if we get the headline 'MERRY CHIPSMAS'.

But that's just me.

Still, we have had a few stories about how Christmas has been banned already. This year, they started in September. Here's a very quick rundown of each of the stories so far.

College bans 'Christmas' and 'Easter' from calendar for fear of offending ethnic students

The story
The story's in the title. Yorkshire Coast College published calendars with 'End of Term Break' instead of 'Christmas' or 'Easter' break.

Was it true?
At it's core, yes. The college really did change the calendars, and really did do it in the name of diversity - although to say it was to stop anyone being offended is a stretch. A vital detail of the story is that the college seems to have thought they were acting because of OFSTED guidelines, but OFSTED doesn't say anything about religious festivals.

The Mail reacted to this by burying the detail in a quote at the end, playing up the OFSTED link throughout the rest of the story, and casting their claim into doubt. The Express reacted differently, making OFSTED's denial the focus and creating the impression that the college was lying. The Mail's approach to the reasoning is very suspect. Why would 'ethnic' students in particular be offended? Plenty of Christians are non-white, and plenty of non-Christians are white - not that any non-Christians would be offended at all, of course.

The truth is probably more likely to be that someone being a bit over zealous messed up. It has that in common with almost all PC Gone Mad stories that have a barely recognisable nub of truth at the core.

Winterval bullshit rating

Christmas is axed in Oxford

The story
I covered this one in 'They've banned Christmas - it's PC Gorn Mad'. Oxford Council apparently banned the word 'Christmas' from its celebrations, replacing it with 'Winter Light'.

Was it true?
No. This is almost identical to the original Winterval story. Oxford, via a charity called Oxford Inspires, will be running an arts festival from late November to Late December called Winter Light, which will incorporate some Christmas things, but nothing has had its name changed. Christmas lights are still called Christmas lights, and there are still Christmas events in the calendar for this year. The Council issued a statement refuting the newspapers' claims.

This one is unusual since it seems to have broken in the Observer. The hack involved could have found references to Christmas on both the Oxford City Council and Oxford Inspires websites in a matter of seconds.

Winterval bullshit rating

'Scrooge' council chiefs send in spies to make sure hairdressers don't hand out Christmas wine

The story
'Killjoy council chiefs' sent out letters to hairdressers in Norwich saying they can't give out free booze to customers at Christmas if they don't have an alcohol licence.

Was it true?
Probably. I don't know if giving out free mulled wine in hairdressers is a 'much loved Christmas tradition' or not. All I get from my barber is an "'Ello mate, 'ave you been on your 'ollidays?" and a haircut.

At least it wasn't spun to make it look as though booze was banned because of Muslims.

Winterval bullshit rating

'Killjoy' council bosses blasted for threatening children's pantomime with police raids

The story
Peterculter Theatre Club were sent a letter saying they must cancel their Christmas pantomime because they didn't have the correct performance licence.

Was it true?
Only up to a point. The Club, it seems, did get a letter telling them they needed the proper licence, but:
The council confirmed authorities were content for the show to go ahead if the fire and rescue services found no problems during a hall inspection on Monday.

The coverage about it seems to be a bit of a fuss about nothing. I'd bet good money that the mentions of 'emergency talks' are complete rubbish. There is no evidence at all in the coverage of the play being threatened with police raids on opening night. This one just looks like a fairly innocuous story given the tabloid treatment.

Winterval bullshit rating

Carol-singing brownies banned over health and safety fears

The story
"Carol-singing Brownies and Guides have been banned from a shopping centre because they are considered a health and safety risk."

Was it true
There's a barely recognisable bit of truth in this one. A shopping centre in Hemel Hempstead has got a bigger tree than usual and added a few extra stalls, this year, so there won't be as much space for the Brownies and Guides. They haven't been 'banned' though. The centre have invited a smaller group instead.

Winterval bullshit rating

Primary school cancels nativity play because it interferes with Muslim festival of Eid

The story
"A primary school infuriated parents after cancelling the traditional Christmas nativity play to make way for the Muslim festival of Eid."

Was it true?
Some papers were closer to the truth on this one, but it has been exaggerated. The play wasn't a nativity play, but a pantomime, and the play hasn't been cancelled, but postponed. This one is an example of someone making a stupid mistake and being made to look as though they've done something deliberately.

It seems that because Eid covers a few days this December and the school is doing so many other things for Christmas and, yes, Eid, it didn't have time for the panto this month. Was it a stupid mistake to schedule it over a time when some of the cast won't be around? Sure, but that's all it seems to have been. A stupid mistake. The school seems to have compounded the blunder by sending out letters saying the play had been cancelled rather than making it clear that it was only postponed, but the letter may have been selectively quoted by the papers.

Note also the wording of the headline. It makes it look as though the play has been cancelled so that the school can do something for Eid instead, when in fact it's because some of the kids in the play will be at home in the evenings they had originally though to schedule it. It's a practical thing rather than a religious thing.

Winterval bullshit rating

That's it for this year so far, I think. A mixed bag of health and safety and 'oh my god, the foreigners are coming' stories. Some have been exaggerated more than others, but almost all of them have been exaggerated for one reason or another. It's interesting - to me at least - but earlier today I caught a bit of the O'Reilly factor. Lucky me. Next to his head was a picture of a Christmas tree with the words 'atheist attack' superimposed over it. It seems that they have the panic about Christmas being banned in the States too, but the folk devils are different.


Akela said...

A slight correction on that last one, my understanding was that what happened was that a number of Muslim families said that they would be keeping their children at home for family Eid celebrations on the days that the panto was meant to happen, hence stripping it of several of the cast! (And to be clear, there is nothing wrong with those families doing that at all, imho) And hence they delayed it.

The bit about the schoold doing loads of other Christmas and Eid events was true to the extent that when they had to delay the panto it was forced to move it to the new year.

Yakoub said...

I suspect there will be a few more anti-Christmas non-stories to keep the tabloids busy before the 25th -- busy from doing anything approaching real journalism, that is.

Chris Baldwin said...

The thing is, the real war on Christmas is being waged by the right-wing media. They're trying to politicise Christmas, which is what the right-wing movement is also trying to do in the US. Since we don't have a right-wing movement on the same scale it's not as virulent here, but still, nothing will ruin Christmas as fast as making celebrating it ostentatiously into a way of affirming your far-right views.

A casual observer said...

Don't get me started on Winterval. I've given up trying to prevent many of my colleagues buying into these tabloid myths.

Here is a link to a blog which gave the former head of events at Birmingham a chance to respond:

"I am Mike Chubb, as Head of Events for Birmingham at the time I invented the term Winterval (41 days and nights of festive fun!), fully supported by The Council and the cultural and business community. I am continually fascinated that the term Winterval, ever caused (and still does) such a furore.

Quite simply, as Head of events at that time, we needed a vehicle which could cover the marketing of a whole season of events…Diwali (festival of Lights), Christmas lights switch on, BBC Children in Need, Aston Hall by Candlelight, Chinese New year, New Years eve etc. Also a season that included theatre shows and open air ice rink, Frankfurt open air Christmas market and the Christmas seasonal retail offer. Christmas, called Christmas! and its celebration, lay at the heart of Winterval."

There is also an interesting comment at the end of the post from a Mr Richard Morris:

"I’m the husband of the late Val Morris who used to work for BCC in the Media Office. One of her tasks (which caused her many sleepless nights) was attempting to rebut the falsities spread by those who, in the words of Mike Chubb ‘… took umbrage, did it for their own reasons, to sell their own message and of course, everybody got on to their own hobby horses in the process.’

I have no doubt that people chose deliberately to misunderstand. Perhaps they still do and as an example let me cite the willingness of a blogger to quote some non-local cleric sounding off recently on Winterval but to ignore the statements on same issued by BCC."

Enough said.

Five Chinese Crackers said...

Cheers for that, Casual Observer. I would have linked to that when I next mentioned Winterval, but it can't hurt to get it in early.

allnottinghambasearebelongtous said...

Isn't it funny how nobody criticises America for renaming Christmas 'Holidays'?

Happy Holidays y'all!

Helen Highwater said...

I've just copy-pasta'd this to some people in my family who still believe in The Great Myth of PC Winterval. As much as I hope it might help them to see the truth, I fear that some bigotted opinions won't dissolve, no matter how much truth is revealed to them. Ho-hum. Or perhaps ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-hum.

Helen said...

The Winterval schtick is positively gobbled up by Catholic commentator Joanna Bogle, who's regularly wheeled out by radio programmes to shriek and admonish those who create spider babies, etc.: http://insidecatholic.com/Joomla/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=5097&Itemid=48