The clue is in the name

MICHELE A'COURT
Last updated 05:00 04/12/2013

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Michele A'Court

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OPINION: There's nothing like a good telling off. In a letter to the editor one of our readers, bless him, has taken me to task for devoting a whole column to Christmas without once ever mentioning Jesus.

He makes a fair point. Say "Christmas" and many of us regard it as a fun adjective to add to nouns like "party", "presents" and "holidays".

But really, the clue should be in the name.

If there is any time of year when Christians can rightfully insist on bringing Christ's name into it, it should be round about now.

The Christian calendar is chock full of events but this is the big one.

Easter used to be quite fancy - and still boasts two days off work - but the meaning has been diluted with eggs and confused by bunnies and the constant murmuring about Christians hijacking what was originally a pagan Spring festival.

As a result, most of us observe Easter by quietly burying our faces in chocolate and sneaking into garden centres on the Sunday.

So I'm thinking maybe all us non-believers and other-believers - Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, pagans and atheists - should cut Christians some slack this time of year and give them space to bang on all they like about their thing.

I am not a religious person - you've probably picked up on that - but I am curious about other people's beliefs. I have some of my own. Whereas an atheist believes there is no god anywhere, I am a pantheist who thinks god turns up everywhere.

At home, I have built a shrine which is dedicated to Stroppy Women.

There is a portrait of Lucille Ball, some Christian saints, a female Buddha, a Hindu goddess and a Voodoo priestess and, slap bang in the middle, a Wonder Woman figurine. It all keeps me cheerful and gives me somewhere to look when I'm having a think.

Bob-each-way cherry-picking? If you say so.

But while others might prefer that religion not be taught in schools, my preference would be that all the religions are taught. Heaven knows - literally, one supposes - the Bible and Torah and Koran are valuable pieces of literature. And also good yarns: people turn into salt, rise from the dead, conquer beasts, undertake grand journeys and epic quests - all the stuff you want in great story.

So yes, my letter-to-the-editor-writing friend, let's talk about Christ at Christmas, and put the hymns and carols back into the end-of-year school show, and dress someone (possibly two) up as a donkey in a classical nativity play.

We absolutely should put the story of Christ back into Christmas. And at other times of the year, let's learn about Passover, Hanukkah, Ramadan, chanting, sacrifice and contemplation. I'd rather we did all of it than none of it. It might make us less fearful and more gentle with each other. Which would be the perfect Christmas gift.

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