Oxford Removes Christmas from Festival, Upsets Muslims

Plans by Oxford city council to ban the word Christmas from this year’s festival celebrations are drawing rebukes from Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders for changing long-established British traditions.

“I’m really upset about this,” Sabir Hussain Mirza, chairman of the Muslim Council of Oxford, told the Oxford Mail on Sunday, November 2.

“This is the one occasion which everyone looks forward to in the year. Christians, Muslims and other religions all look forward to Christmas.”

The Oxford city center has decided to axe the word Christmas from this year’s celebration, naming it the “Winter Light Festival”.

“We changed the name to be more inclusive,” said Liz Gresham of Oxford Inspires, which has proposed the move.

“We have Diwali at this time of year and Hannukah, so these are represented as well.”

Under the new plans, lights will be turned on automatically at the beginning of the Winter Light event as part of the unveiling of the new Bonn Square on Friday, November 28.

A giant mobile of the solar system will hang from a crane in Broad Street on that night and will be lit up by a pyrotechnic display of fireworks.

“There’s going to be a Christmas tree and even if the lights are called something else to me they will be Christmas lights,” said council deputy leader Ed Turner.

“We are not Christmas killers.”

Last year, Oxford city council came under fire for asking Lord Mayor John Tanner to switch on the Christmas Lights and not stumping up cash for a celebrity.

Christians celebrate Christmas Day on December 25.

Popular Christmas themes include the promotion of goodwill, giving, compassion, and quality family time.

Religious leaders said that Christmas has been part of the long-established British traditions.

“Christmas is special and we shouldn’t ignore it,” said Mirza.

“This is going to be a disaster. I’m angry and very, very disappointed.

“Christian people should be offended and 99 per cent of people will be against this. Christmas is part of being British and we shouldn’t hide it away.”

Rabbi Eli Bracknell, who teaches at the Jewish Educational Centre, in Cowley Road, said that British traditions must be maintained.

“It’s important to maintain a traditional British Christmas,” he said.

“Anything that waters down traditional culture and Christianity in the UK is not positive for the British identity.

“Winter includes all of these festivals but it also conceals them.”

Reverend James Grote, of the John Bunyan Baptist Church, in Cowley, agrees.

“People are not offended by hearing each other’s faiths,” he said.

“Our religious community is diverse and each one should be expressed. You can only do that if you name the faiths represented.”

UK Town Council Kills Festive Decor

It is becoming a hallmark of British Christmas celebration: decades of tradition are dashed under concerns for “safety”. Town after town in the UK over the period of the past five years have lost seasonal decorations due to strict new guidelines — even though no clear past trends show that workers have ever been injured putting up Christmas decor.

Christmas is ‘cancelled’ as health and safety measures make putting decorations up too expensive for Llandovery council

A Christmas tree tradition has been chopped after town councillors were told they could no longer climb ladders to erect festive decorations.

In the past they and a contractor have put up around 60 trees in Llandovery, Carmarthenshire, on ledges over shop fronts and above the market hall.

But they have been told they risk breaching health and safety rules.

They say they cannot afford to pay for scaffolding or hire a cherry-picker to conform to the requirements.

Deputy mayor Helene Lovell said: “We will be able to put our main Christmas tree in the town square and decorate our council building but we will not be putting trees up on other peoples’ buildings.

“We have been advised that over a certain height we need scaffolding or a cherry picker.

“We are only a small council and we cannot the afford the extra costs so unfortunately we have had to most sincerely apologise to all the businesses that we will not be participating this year.”

Contactor Dave Worthington has put most of the trees up for the last three years.

He said: “I think its probably a triumph of bureaucracy over common sense.

“I suppose it’s the possibility that one of us could fall but there’s a possibility you could fall just crossing the road.”

Businesswoman Helen Greenslade said: “It’s a tradition that has been in this town for years.

“It’s up to us as businesses now to do it ourselves – I will be putting decorations up outside but this thing that the council can’t put them is stupid.”

Mrs Lovell said she hoped it would not dampen LLandovery’s festive look.

“I have every faith that most of the businesses will continue and erect their own Christmas trees.”

Wisconsin Banning Christmas Trees in Churches

A dispute over the state’s fire code ignited Thursday, with at least one fire chief saying the rules no longer allow Christmas trees in churches, hotels and other places where people gather.

But Gov. Jim Doyle promised that Christmas trees won’t be hauled out of churches this winter.

“In churches, you can have Christmas trees,” Doyle said early Thursday. “My understanding is maybe someone has put out a rumor of some kind, and I’m going to make sure the secretary of commerce clarifies that there is no ban of any kind that’s there.”

Hours later, Commerce Secretary Dick Leinenkugel sent a letter to the state’s fire chiefs telling them they have the power to set rules that allow Christmas trees in churches and other buildings.

The state updated its fire code in March to conform to national standards. Wausau Fire Chief Gary Buchberger said the changes don’t allow Christmas trees or other combustible vegetation in places where people assemble.

“The state adopted these codes and, at least in my jurisdiction, I have to enforce it,” he said.

He said he would not enforce the ban this Christmas, but would next year. He said he wanted to give churches and businesses time to prepare for the change.

Zach Brandon, Leinenkugel’s top aide, said the code gives local jurisdictions the power to set parameters that would allow Christmas trees in churches.

Part of the code explicitly bans Christmas trees from places of assembly, but another portion says that “limited quantities of combustible vegetation shall be permitted where (a local fire official) determines that adequate safeguards are provided.”

Brandon said that meant local officials could set standards – such as regularly watering the trees and keeping them away from space heaters – that would allow them to be kept in churches.

The Department of Commerce’s response was prompted by a letter from Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker (D-Weston) and four other Senate Democrats who said local authorities needed clarification on the code.

“I think anybody that wants to take away a Christmas tree at Christmastime ought to be put on Santa’s naughty list,” Decker said.

Tom Mishefske, operations manager for the Milwaukee Department of Neighborhood Services, said city churches are allowed to have Christmas trees as long as they meet safety requirements.