The ‘Winterval’ myth – the Christmas gift that just keeps on giving…and giving…and giving…and giving…

Yes, Christmas is upon us once again.

I like Christmas, in spite of all the crass commercialism and the attempts by all and sundry to get at the contents of my wallet.

Indeed, I can put up with all the shops stocking Christmas cards in September and the TV ads exhorting me to BUY, BUY, BUY!

However, one thing really, really pisses me off fucking big time at this time of year…

…and that’s the perpetuation of the Winterval myth:

In 1997 Mike Chubb was working for Birmingham city council during the rejuvenation of the city centre. As the council’s head of events he and his team were charged with creating a marketing strategy to cover:

“41 days and nights of activity that ranged from BBC Children in Need, to the Christmas Lights Switch On, to a Frankfurt Christmas Market, outdoor ice rink, Aston Hall by Candlelight, Diwali, shopping at Christmas, world class theatre and arts plus, of course, New Year’s Eve with its massive 100,000 audience.”

Chubb realised that with so many events competing for visitors, marketing them as individual occasions would be expensive, time-consuming and ineffective in acquiring sponsorship or funding. What the events needed, he decided, was a “generic banner under which they could all sit”. His team settled on “Winterval” – a portmanteau of “winter” and “festival”.

As Chubb has pointed out several times over the last 14 fucking years, there was never any intent to rebrand, rename or abolish ‘Christmas’.


However, this didn’t prevent the media from making allegations to the contrary.

Like some rotting corpse, this myth is exhumed every Christmas by people too fucking thick or lazy to concern themselves with the facts behind it and/or zealously intent upon gaining some sort of ideological or political capital from it.

Step forward flatulent fat fuck Eric Pickles – Local Government Secretary – who only a year ago had this to say about Winterval:

“The war on Christmas is over, and likes of Winterval, Winter Lights and Luminous deserve to be in the dustbin of history.

“We live in tough financial times, but there’s no need for town halls to play Scrooge. It is in councils’ financial interests to draw in shoppers to their town centres at Christmas given the benefits of packed car parks to councils’ coffers. Shoppers want to see Christmas lights, Christmas trees, Carol Services and nativity scenes, and councils should not hesitate in supporting them.”

It’s the Christmas gift that just keeps on giving – as revealed by the number of times its putrescent presence graces not just the red tops, but the broadsheets as well:

To make things worse, it was not a myth copied and perpetuated solely by the tabloids; the broadsheets were equally responsible for repeating it, and perhaps did more to legitimise it than the tabloids. The Sunday Times, for instance, used the myth as a question and answer in three quizzes, twice in 1998 and then again in 2000.

Between them, the Times and the Sunday Times have in fact managed to repeat the myth 40 times in total since 1998, an achievement only surpassed by the Daily Mail, which leads the field with 44 mentions. The Daily Telegraph managed to repeat it 22 times, only slightly behind the Express (26), and a bit further behind the Sun (31). The Daily Mirror only seems to have repeated the myth on four occasions – less than the Guardian, which has repeated it on six occasions, even though it did eventually debunk the myth in several different articles.

However it’s not just the Press which seeks to profit from the Winterval myth, but also political parties lying somewhat to the right of the political spectrum.

It offers the cunts a quintessential but totally spurious example of ‘political correctness gone mad’ and is guaranteed to get their supporters into a real self-righteous lather with kneejerk responses and ignorant pontifications.

Here’s a priceless example taken from the Facebook page of a political party when a news story from 2002 (yes, 2002!) about the Red Cross supposedly banning Christmas was chosen as a topic for discussion this week by one of the page’s admins*.

Winterville its was something a council came up with in the UK, Birmingham I think because they did not want to use Christmas or solstes because it was Christian and pagan so they came up with that name. Why? Well you guessed it so we don’t offend anyone….except of cause those that were already used to the term Christmas for generations. They had one for Easter too, springtide i think..oh and Easter eggs were changed to spring spheres in some places in the us but may have found its way to England

Where do you fucking start with ignorant dogwank like this?

But it’s dangerous dogwank too:

It (the Winterval myth) then mutated from a simple rebranding to a calculated attack on Christianity by “atheists”, “Muslims”, or the “PC brigade” who feared offending “other faiths” or “ethnic minorities”. In one extreme example, the South Wales Echo claimed that Winterval was the result of “virulent attacks on religion by atheists”, which had led to “new rules such as Christmas being renamed as “Winterval”. Who created and enforced this “rule” and who it applied to was not explained in the article.

In all, at least 15 articles directly claim that Christmas was renamed Winterval because of a fear of offending “other faiths”. At least a further 10 articles directly claim that Winterval was used to avoid offending “ethnic minorities”.

Oh well, even though the whole myth seems to have a life of its own, It’s possible to point an accusatory finger at the two chief culprits responsible for its genesis, the Daily Mail and the very aptly named Mark Santer, who was Bishop of Birmingham at the time Birmingham City Council first coined the word ‘Winterval’.

In fact, Santer greedily swallowed the whole story like a jizz-guzzling whore and, even more like a whore, sought to profit from it:

In a message to all the churches and clergy in his diocese, he said: “I wonder what madness is in store for us this Christmas?

“I confess I laughed out loud when our city council came out with Winterval as a way of not talking about Christmas.

“No doubt it was a well-meaning attempt not to offend, not to exclude, not to say anything at all.”

The message continues: “Now it seems, the secular world, which expresses respect for all, is actually embarrassed by faith. Or perhaps it is Christianity which is censored.”

I am unable to find any retraction by this ignorant cunt of his remarks, which lent the issue a certain gravitas that it should never have had in the first place.

However, the Daily Mail has published a retraction, which reads as follows (blink and you’ll fucking miss it):

We stated in an article on 26 September that Christmas has been renamed in various places Winterval.

Winterval was the collective name for a season of public events, both religious and secular, which took place in Birmingham in 1997 and 1998.

We are happy to make clear that Winterval did not rename or replace Christmas.

Not, of course, that this will stop the Press, certain political parties and the sort of people who believe what they read in the Daily Mail dredging this myth up again next Christmas, the Christmas after that and so on…

In conclusion, I think we can safely say that Winterval is firmly in place (along with its fellow myths such as school blackboards being banned and children being stopped from singing ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’) in the minds of certain feeble-minded members of the UK population as an example of the evils of ‘political correctness’, ‘loony left’ politics and ‘woolly liberal thinking’.

Never mind such fabrications being a gift to the right, the real gift here is the seemingly limitless supply of stupidity to be found within the UK electorate…

…not to mention their insatiable appetite for lies, innuendo and utter bullshit.

They should be made to read – if they can read – this excellent article here and then be forced to have every word of it tattooed on their arses – all 47 pages…

Its author can have the last word here:

It remains to be seen whether any journalist will dare to repeat the myth as fact again, but this is now largely irrelevant when those who need to justify their own intolerance and hate can still call upon it.

*It seems that the Red Cross got some flak last year (2010) courtesy of the 2002 Mail article:

To reiterate: this story is now nine years old. Many of our shops and offices are decked out in Christmas decorations, and our online Christmas gift shop is open for business. We have in no way “banned Christmas” nor have we discussed doing so. We apologise for any upset or distress caused to supporters who have come across these allegations, but they are simply not accurate and we have gone to some lengths to ensure the correct information is easily available.
It is true that we are not a political or religious organisation, for the reasons described in the post below relating to the Red Cross’ unique role and neutrality, which help us save lives all over the world. This has been the case since the British Red Cross was established in 1870. But nor are we an atheistic or humanist organisation – people who work and volunteer for us represent all faiths and none and we have always enthusiastically fostered a culture of mutual respect on such matters.
We would like to once again wish all our supporters in advance a merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Yesterday, we started getting some comments on our Facebook page from people angry with us for ‘banning Christmas’, which we haven’t, and the story now seems to be spreading on some American websites.

It turns out that these people have stumbled across an article that appeared in the Daily Mail in 2002 and now forms part of the paper’s online archive. Unfortunately, the article isn’t dated on the Mail’s site, which had led some people to believe this was a current news story – although references in it to Sangatte, the Calais refugee camp that closed in 2002, do serve to date it. We denied the gist of the piece strongly at the time.

It looks as if the ignorance of the anti-PC brigade is going to take up even more of the Red Cross’ time and energy again this year…

One Response

  1. Just catching up on things in the midst of a busy period.

    Great article, supported by appropriate links. Good journalism, Steve – shame no one seems to have commented.

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