Keep alive the real meaning

PUBLISHED: 19:22 10 December 2008 | UPDATED: 15:56 11 May 2010

CHRISTMAS has sneaked up on me a bit this year. It barely seems like last week that we were celebrating bonfire night, and suddenly we re in the season of sleigh bells ringing, chestnuts roasting on open fires, and Nativity plays. But over the last few ye

CHRISTMAS has sneaked up on me a bit this year. It barely seems like last week that we were celebrating bonfire night, and suddenly we're in the season of sleigh bells ringing, chestnuts roasting on open fires, and Nativity plays.

But over the last few years I've become a bit disillusioned with Nativity plays, or rather the lack of them.

Presumably in the spirit of inclusiveness, a lot of schools in the Royston area and beyond seem to have dispensed with the traditional Nativity in favour of something less, well, Christmassy.

Where once you would have found baby Jesus, three wise men, and a donkey, parents across the land are now being treated to tales of Sammy the seasonal sparrow, or Harry the holiday hedgehog.

For me this is total and utter nonsense for a number of reasons. Firstly, I hardly think that schoolchildren from other cultures or religions are going to be offended by listening to, or taking part in, the Nativity story.

The primary school I attended in Cambridge is in one of the most culturally diverse areas of the city, and I don't remember any of my classmates protesting about having to dress up as an inn keeper or whatever.

But moreover, is it right that school pupils are shielded from the true beginnings of Christmas?

At this time of year the papers are usually filled with stories about how children don't know what Christmas means, and how they're only interested in getting the latest toys or computer games.

Is it really a surprise that we have a generation fixated on the materialistic side of the festival when we are so keen to hide its origins?

I am of course not trying to say that any one religion is more right or wrong than any other, or that any one particular viewpoint should be imposed on people who don't want it.

However, I do think it is more than a bit hypocritical that we as a nation are happy to celebrate the parts of Christmas that suit us, but not acknowledge what it is really all about.

As much as I hate talk of the "PC Brigade", I do think the people who are responsible for the demise of Nativity productions should consider becoming card-carrying members.

I said in this column a few weeks ago that I feared the people of Thriplow were fighting a losing battle as they attempted to save their village post office from closure.

Sadly, this turned out to be the case, as it was announced last week that the office would be closing its doors for the last time in January.

It is a shame that the Post Office could not look beyond the "relatively low" customer numbers, at the wider value of the post office to community of Thriplow, but in this era of cost-cutting, we should not be surprised that the company is unable to see anything apart from the bottom line.

However, I am pleased that the shop, which is also housed on the post office site, is set to remain open.

It would have been a shame if the short-sightedness of the Post Office had led to a double blow for the village.

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