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.”