This month’s chunk of Birmingham Post lite…due for publication on Thursday 11th December 2008. Inspired by previous posts under the ’12 Posts of Xmas’ series:
“It’s Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid…”. Whilst Band Aid’s superstars may have sung those words in an attempt to reassure, I increasingly find myself far from reassured at Christmas.
Every Christmas I’m always a little afraid of what the festive season might bring. Beyond the normal horrors of manic Christmas shopping, visiting relatives and unwanted presents (given and received), there are the now annual news stories of Christmas, Jesus and almost everything else being banned under the tabloid slogan of ‘political correctness gone mad’…!!!
This year though I found myself reading newspaper articles about research undertaken by the think-tank Theos about how much Britons know of the Christmas story. Overall, only 12% have a detailed knowledge of the nativity story. Having said that, certain parts are better known than others with 73% knowing about the appearance of an angel to Mary, the same being able to name Jesus’ birthplace.
Numbers drop significantly when asked about those elements of the nativity that have not been sung about by Cliff Richard in a Christmas number 1. Consequently, only 48% know that John the Baptist was Jesus’ cousin. A mere 22% aware that Jesus, Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt to escape Herod.
Knowing the story however doesn’t necessarily mean that people believe it. Here the report suggests that just over a third of people believe the statement “Jesus was born to a virgin called Mary” as historically accurate. 32% consider it entirely fictional. However, somewhat surprisingly more people believe in the virgin birth than angels with only 28% believing that angels visited the shepherds – a staple of the traditional school nativity play – compared with 32% who believe it fictional.
In terms Jesus’ birth, 52% agree or strongly agree that it is significant to them on a personal level. Of these, 57% of people – with an emphasis on women – celebrate Christmas as a religious festival. Although 48% of men compared with 36% of women do not celebrate it religiously. As a country however, 72% believe that Jesus’ birth continues to be culturally significant, evidence of which – or so the report suggests – can be seen in the growing popularity of carol services. 44% are allegedly planning to attend a Christmas church service this year.
In what seems to be an unending and relentless year on year drive towards consuming more to celebrate the festival once associated with Jesus’ birth, the findings of the report don’t really reassure me. Being the cynical person that I am, the growing popularity of carol services are from evidence that Britons are celebrating Christmas as a religious festival. Far from it.
Unfortunately, I fear that carol services are little more than another Christmas commodity: one that we desperately crave in our desire to buy our way to a nostalgic, one eye over the shoulder, ‘real’ Christmas – carol services being as essential as snow, reindeers, log cabins and Father Christmas. As shown with the desperate attempts to create Lapland in quite ridiculous locations across the UK, it seems that far too many believe that this is how you experience – buy? – a ‘real’ Christmas.
Sadly, no amount of money can do this and no matter how much you spend, you’ll never get what you so desperately crave. Feel free to shout ‘Bah Humbug’ if you so wish, but I think I have a point.
Having begun with a Christmas hit, I’ll end with another, Greg Lake’s ‘I Believe in Father Christmas: “I wish you a hopeful Christmas, I wish you a brave New Year, All anguish pain and sadness, Leave your heart and let your road be clear. They said there’ll be snow at Christmas, They said there’ll be peace on Earth – Hallelujah, Noel, be it Heaven or Hell, The Christmas you get you deserve…”.
May the blessings of Cliff Richard be with you all – see you in 2009 !!!
Everything on this site by Chris Allen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales License. www.chris-allen.co.uk