UK Town Struggles to Celebrate Christmas

A campaign has been launched to rekindle the spirit of Christmas in Bristol.

David Long, who campaigned for a statue of Cary Grant in the city, is leading the drive to make Bristol one of the best cities in the country to visit during the festive season.

He and others feel that, over the years, the city has lost its sparkle at Christmas and is almost apologetic about the most important date in the Christian calendar.

Mr Long, 51, said: “When I first came to Bristol in 1982, the Christmas lights in Bristol went all the way down Blackboy Hill, Whiteladies Road and Park Street.

“Broadmead was lit up and there was a huge Christmas tree back then.

“There was an illuminated procession of boats in the harbour and an illuminated carnival.

“There were always great pantos at the Hippodrome and the Old Vic.

“Slowly but surely each of those has bitten the dust until we go to the position last year where we didn’t have a panto, there wasn’t a tree and there was very little sound of carols in the air.

“The situation has drawn a lot of negative comment and it occurred to me, after conversations with other people, that maybe we ought to do something about this, maybe even make Bristol the best place to come for Christmas.”

A 30-minute search of the internet revealed pictures of other UK towns and cities including Nottingham, Norwich, Glasgow, Leicester, Plymouth, Newcastle, Gloucester, Manchester and Portsmouth, with spectacular Christmas light displays and decorations.

Bristol’s display last year was disappointing by comparison, despite the best efforts of Broadmead manager John Hirst, who singlehandedly arranged for lights in four areas – Broadmead, the Centre, College Green and Park Street.

This December Cabot Circus alone will have twice the money spent on Christmas decor that the whole of Bristol had last year.

Mr Hirst said new health and safety regulations and a limited budget restricted what could be achieved.

He said: “Last year I kept meeting people who told me why things couldn’t be done. There were so many barriers. It’s a great idea but we have to address those barriers.”

Also involved in the campaign is the Reverend Canon Tim Higgins of Bristol Cathedral who said: “I think a lot of people of other faiths are very puzzled by our attitude.

“I think it is people who are not connected to any world faith who think it is their duty to clear away any symbols, that it’s really not safe and people are perplexed by this. It becomes a story with no significance.

“You take the story out of Christmas and it’s not good for business, it’s not good for families and it’s not good for people’s sense of belonging.”

As a first step, the campaigners will be setting up a Christmas in Bristol website which will detail all the events going on this December from carol services to pantos and processions. The ambition for Christmas 2009 – if there is enough support – is to give Bristol a spectacular Christmas, perhaps with a theme such as the iconic angels used in a series of art works and decorations in Swindon.

Australian Town to Cancel Christmas Due to Lack of Interest

THE VICTORIAN town of Terang, east of Geelong on Princes Highway, is expecting to cancel Christmas because of lack of interest.

Yuletide celebrations may not happen this year and the town’s Santa may be out of a job.

The elves have been told not to come, the bunting and tree is packed away and the carols choir isn’t bothering to rehearse.

Terang and District Progress Association has organised the town’s Christmas Gala Night for the past 30 years.

But the association’s membership has fallen to only three people, forcing the group to question its future as well as the Christmas party.

President Elizabeth English said the lack of new members had made it impossible to run community events.

“It’ll be sad to see the celebration go. It’s the major Christmas event in the community,” Mrs English said.

“We normally have a big street party with part of the main road closed off, plenty of food stalls and jumping castles.

“The fire brigade brings Santa and there are elves and carols in the church.

“But it looks as though none of that is going to happen this year.”

Mrs English said local charities would miss out on a chance to raise funds and for families to come together and have fun.

“We usually have all the local charities lined up along the street and people come past with their gold coins,” she said.

She said the group had little choice but to abandon the event.

“We are working with a small committee of people who are facing a large degree of burnout and are looking to step back from their positions,” Mrs English said. “I would like to see young people become involved so it is not just us who are semi-retired bearing the burden.”

Mrs English said there was a misconception the group was a traders’ organisation.

“It is for anyone who cares about their community and is a forum for any concerns, praise or community developments,” she said.

Terang-based Corangamite Shire councillor Jim O’Brien said the association had been invaluable.

“I bounce a lot of ideas off them,” Cr O’Brien said.

“They are very beneficial to me because I have to think about what the town wants and they do that.”

In a last-ditch effort to save the Christmas celebrations, and the association, an annual general meeting will be held at Terang Rotary Club at 7.30pm on Monday, July 14.

Christ Makes a Comeback in City Parade

Holiday is out.

Christmas is in.

The Manteca Ministerial Association – led by Pastor Mike Dillman of the First Assembly of God – is making it possible for the Manteca Chamber of Commerce to stage a Christmas parade and not a holiday parade in downtown when December rolls around.

The association has pledged $1,000 to help cover the cost of municipal services that in the past have been “in-kind” donations from the City of Manteca.

Since there won’t be any taxpayer support of the parade – direct or indirect – the chamber will be able to advertise the event as the Manteca Twilight Christmas Parade instead of the Holiday Parade as has been done in the past.

“We’re thrilled,” said Manteca Chamber of Commerce chief operating officer Debby Moorehead.

Moorehead approached the ministerial association which quickly agreed to see what they could do. Every church participating answered in the affirmative backing up their answer with a pledge of funds to cover the cost for police services, municipal crews blocking streets, and the clean-up afterwards.

The procession for years was referred to as the Christmas parade until a slew of challenges by various groups forced cities that in some capacity or another – a manger in a public park or helping support community events with the word Christmas attached- into lawsuits costing big bucks to defend.

The Manteca City Council, on advice of legal council a few years back, pulled the plug on the word “Christmas” being allowed for use in promoting the parade. The reason wasn’t because it was conducted on city streets but rather the city contributed in-kind to staging the event by footing the bill for police and street department services needed that day.

Although no one ever officially challenged the use of municipal money to assist in staging the Manteca parade that typically draws 8,000 people downtown and more than 120 entries, the council didn’t want to expose the city to a costly separation of church and state lawsuit. So they stipulated the parade could only take place with city help if it was called “the holiday parade.”

By Dennis Wyatt, Manteca Bulletin

Baptist Convention Calls for Defense of Christmas

Southern Baptists called on Christians to “use their influence to restore Christmas to its proper place in the culture” during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Indianapolis June 11.

Schools, communities, businesses and other public institutions are being pressured to replace “Christmas” with “winter celebration” or “holiday festival,” the Resolutions Committee noted.

So, messengers voted to ask all believers to “use their influence to restore Christmas to its proper place in the culture.” They also agreed to emphasize the birth of Jesus during the Christmas season and to “resist the march of secularism wherever it arises in opposition to the historic understanding of our freedom to worship and express our love for Christ in the marketplace of ideas.”

Dutch Company Cancels Christmas Festivities to Be Sensitive to Muslims

AMSTERDAM – Amsterdam municipal transport company (GVB) bus-drivers and tram personnel cannot celebrate Christmas any more. GVB is axing the event to please Muslims, newspaper de Telegraaf suggested yesterday.

Personnel association VTN has been told by GVB management that “the multicultural representation of the colleagues at the Christmas party is too one-sided.” Supposedly, GVB meant to say that only white GVB staffs have been attending the annual event organised by management in the past years. It has therefore halted its financial contribution to the Christmas party.

“We have a limited budget and want to organise something that is intended for everyone,” said GVB spokeswoman Brit Wijkniet. “Perhaps a New Year drinks party.”