Saturday, 18 September 2010

The Winterval stories begin...

The tabloids have, predictably, leapt on the Pope's remarks in Westminster Hall that:

‘There are those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged, in the questionable belief that it might somehow offend those of other religions or none.’

It is not, and never has been, clear who those 'those' actually are, or who the Pope is battling to save Christmas from.

But it's a line the Mail and its ilk have been spinning for years - and they're not likely to stop now the Pope has repeated it.

On the Sky News paper preview on Friday night, Mail columnist John McEntee used the old urban myth about 'Birmingham renaming Christmas 'Winterval'' as Exhibit A.

Over in today's Express, Gary Nicks begins his article with:

Pope Benedict XVI yesterday made an impassioned plea for Britain to return to its Christian values and condemned the “politically correct brigade” who dismiss Christmas.

See what he did there? Put 'politically correct brigade' in quote marks to make it appear that the Pope actually used those very words.

He didn't.

Nicks goes on:

In recent years there have been cases of schools cancelling Christmas Nativity plays for fear of offending non-Christians and ­replacing them with winterval festivals.

He doesn't provide any specific examples of 'schools' doing these things.

In the Star, Emily Hall writes:

Speaking to a packed Westminster Hall in London, he urged people to turn their backs on the use of words like “Winterval” to describe the festival of Jesus’s birth.

She writes this despite the fact the Pope didn't actually use the word 'Winterval' and didn't say anything about the 'use of words' to describe Christmas.

Meanwhile, the Sun's James Clench says the Pope:

let rip at the politically correct knuckleheads who deem [Christmas] offensive to other faiths...

He urged his VIP audience to use their "respective spheres of influence" to help turn back a tide that has seen Christmas renamed Winterval.

Quite how his audience can turn back a tide that doesn't exist is hard to say.

But how many more times are these lazy 'journalists' going to trot out this Winterval nonsense before they accept that it is 'bollocks'?

Perhaps the most notorious of the anti-Christmas rebrandings is Winterval, in Birmingham, and when you telephone the Birmingham city council press office to ask about it, you are met first of all with a silence that might seasonably be described as frosty.

"We get this every year," a press officer sighs, eventually. "It just depends how many rogue journalists you get in any given year. We tell them it's bollocks, but it doesn't seem to make much difference."

According to an official statement from the council, Winterval - which ran in 1997 and 1998, and never since - was a promotional campaign to drive business into Birmingham's newly regenerated town centre. It began in early November and finished in January.

During the part of that period traditionally celebrated as Christmas, "there was a banner saying Merry Christmas across the front of the council house, Christmas lights, Christmas trees in the main civil squares, regular carol-singing sessions by school choirs, and the Lord Mayor sent a Christmas card with a traditional Christmas scene wishing everyone a Merry Christmas".

How dare these 'politically correct knuckleheads' ban Christmas in such a way.


  1. Thanks for this. My late wife Val, a media officer for Birmingham City Council, spent much time on and had many sleepless nights over this wilful misinterpretation of events. As an object lesson in lazy journalism this 'story' is unbeatable.

    And the pope is in Birmingham tomorrow. I hope someone has the balls to put him right.

  2. Ahhh must be time for Christmas decorations in high streets across the land all actively not-promoting Christmas. I would have preferred it if the Pope had actually condemned those secular Fascists from also shoving Christmas down our throats from August to December to make money of their faith...but that was me being an extremist agent provocateur.

    Anyway anyone using the word "Winterval" should be ignored and condemned as it is simply a horrible, meaningless neologism.

  3. I wonder what the Catholic press have had to say about Winterval...

  4. Last year the Scottish tabloids had a field day when Dundee City Council decided to hold a "Winter Light Night". They went mad claming they had covered up all traces of the Christmas lights and were pandering to PC nonsense etc...

    However, had the papers bothered to investigate at all (only the two Dundee papers actually ran the correct version of the story)they would have seen that the event was named that because it included more than just switching on the Christmas lights. They had numerous events and activities all across the city, with light being the main theme. The main attractions were a GIANT presentation beamed onto the side of the DC Thomson building, showing the history of Dundee, with an emphasis on Journalism in the city (how ironic!).

    Other activities included a big fireworks display to celebrate the evening, guided tours of the oldest graveyard in Dundee (for the first time ever, which was also tastefully illuminated), a large group of school chidlren holding candles, singing Scottish folk songs, and later on, Christmas songs (!) as well as around a dozen other events.

    The biggest part of the evening was the switch on of the Christmas Lights. DCC made no attempt to hide this fact. Every poster stated in large letters that the Christmas lights switch on would culminate the evening. The words 'CHRISTMAS' and 'LIGHTS' were used extensivley in the promotion of the event and as I write this I have dug out a copy of the evening's timetable and 'Christmas Lights Switch On' is right there on the list, given most prominance!

    None of the tabloids covered the event after it had happened, so a lot of people were just left thinking DCC had removed all traces of Christmas. What they actually did which was dress up an otherwise mundane, tacky event with something which the local community could learn from and enjoy, while at the same time, marking the start of the Christmas Period!

    But that wouldn't shift papers, would it?

  5. This was repeated by an Abbot on Today this morning as well. Just goes to show how pernicious the tabloid influence can be.

  6. I am amazed people still believe this 'Winterval' bullshit.
    The amusing thing is, I live just outside Birmingham and I don't know anybody who even remembers this Winterval thing or believes that Christmas is being 'rebranded' as it.

    I'm atheist but I enjoy Christmas. Mainly for the presents ;)

  7. Hmm... I wonder if the Pope is so keen to preserve the traditions of the small Sussex town of Lewes, where they celebrate Bonfire Night by burning effigies of the Pope and hanging signs around saying "No Popery"? (it is a *very* Protestant place, rumour has it Ian Paisley has a few churches there)

  8. It hadn't occurred to me before, but the Pope is a bit of a typical Daily Mail Reader, isn't he?

  9. The only people who have really ever banned the celebration of Christmas in the UK were Christians:

  10. These type of stories will run for year after year as they are easy space fillers for newspapers that no longer wish to print genuine stories. They - of course - also press the right buttons of their typical readership and hopefully flog more papers. That's the real intention.

  11. The main thing Christmas needs saving from is the consumerism it's now surrounded by, the very thing Thatcher encouraged strongly supported by the Mail.

  12. It amazes me that anyone STILL believes (I suppose they want to believe it) this dogshit 'story' - Even QI (fronted by evil liberal homosexual atheist Stephen Fry, admittedly) laid the myth to rest on one of it's Christmas specials a couple of years ago.

  13. Of course, those that *do* want to celebrate life, the universe and everything at wintertime in a non-religious setting can do so at 9 Lessons and Carols for Godless People, which was actually inspired by this Winterval "myth"

  14. Is it just me or do the "PC killjoys ban Christmas" stories get earlier every year?


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