So, Christmas has now begun. At least, that is the sort of statement that will keep liturgical pedants happy whilst simultaneously confusing everyone else.

The Christmas season begins on Christmas Day (or late Christmas Eve, if you really want to push it) and lasts for twelve days until Epiphany (6 January) – which is when the Magi first come on the scene. And that, for many people, is another surprise: the so-called Wise Men weren’t present with the shepherds following the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, but came when he was probably a toddler around the age of two. Furthermore, and just to confuse matters, the Eastern Churches celebrate Christmas at Epiphany.

So what? Well, this bit of pedantry is really just a way into the weary observation that now Christmas Day and Boxing Day have passed by, it is time for the newspapers to identify ‘loony Christmas’ stories from the last few days. And it is the Mail on Sunday that strikes my own eye first – mainly because I am partly quoted in it.

Isn’t it bizarre that this great champion of ‘political-correctness-gone-mad’ and ‘Britain-ceasing-be-Christian’ and ‘immigrants-are-taking-over-the-country’ and ‘what is happening to marriage and morality’ wildness should also be the organ that hysterically has the moral giant Piers Morgan going through a Las Vegas ‘wedding’ to Paris Hilton? Doesn’t the editor see the contradictions that run criss-cross through his paper?

Anyway, the story today is about the British Transport Police replacing the word ‘Christmas’ with ‘Holiday’ in their punned posters aimed at reassuring the London public that police will be working in force over the next couple of weeks. The text of the poster is fine, but clearly someone decided to change ‘Christmas’ to ‘Holiday’ in the main blurb: ‘Holiday presence’. Now it just doesn’t work: ‘Christmas presence’ (punning ‘presents’) works, but the BTP’s change of wording doesn’t.

Apparently, it was the police’s marketing department that decided on the word change. The reason is simply (as I put it in the quotation I gave them) bonkers. A spokesperson is quoted in the Mail explaining the change as follows:

It is just to make the message non-denominational so that it applies to everyone and so that people who don’t buy into Christmas don’t feel excluded.

Where do you start with that nonsense? Whoever said that clearly doesn’t understand the meaning of ‘denomination’ or the difference between Christian ‘denominations’ (Methodists, Baptists, etc.) and different ‘faiths’ or ‘religions’.

I hate to side with the Mail, but this story does reinforce the point that it is not ‘faith communities’ that have problems and tensions, but the silly secular humanists who ignorantly seem to think they can patronisingly help the rest of us out by reducing ‘offence’ and being ‘inclusive’. All they succeed in doing is making themselves look stupid and the rest of us cross at their ignorance.

Let’s make this clear: I knw of no Muslim or Hindu or Jew who wants to drop ‘Christmas’ in favour of some bland alternative. They are not offended. What they do find offensive is the patronising stupidity of people who think it is reasonable or helpful to empty a Christian festival of its Christianity on the grounds that people who believe differently will be offended. Would they suggest that Muslims should drop ‘Eid’ from their celebrations in case Christians get cross?

There are exceptions to this nonsense. But it would be enormously helpful if local authorities, the police and other public bodies would insist that all their employees did some training in order to become religiously literate. They then wouldn’t do silly things like the British Transport Police has just done. It would also stop giving organs like the Mail an excuse to sound off on ‘PC gone mad’ stories.

Now, back to celebrating Christmas…