Listeners who are, or have been, parents or teachers might have experienced the problem of fair shares, when a child has a sweet or a treat, and the others get wind of it and demand one too. It’s no good trying to sneak a treat to one child, without setting off wails of “O-oh! That’s not fair!”
Sometimes it seems that some politicians are having similar problems over “multiculturalism”. One religious group has faith schools, and they all want some. One religious group has preferential treatment, and they all want some. The latest fair shares idea comes from a think-tank called the Institute for Public Policy Research. According to news reports this week, the IPPR suggests, “Christmas should be downgraded unless other religious festivals are marked on an even footing”. That may not be exactly what they said, as their report hasn’t been published yet, but it’s the gist of it. The report is quoted as follows: “If we are going to continue to mark Christmas – and it would be very hard to expunge it from our national life even if we wanted to – then public organisations should mark other major religious festivals too. Even-handedness dictates that we provide public recognition to minority cultures and traditions.”
I’ve got a better idea. How about we recognise that Christmas isn’t compulsory, and neither is religion, and leave the matter of what we celebrate, and how, to individuals? How, exactly, can Christmas be “downgraded”? Some of us wish the commercialisation could be substantially downgraded, but apart from that, you can’t dictate what people should do. Besides, the midwinter solstice festival isn’t an exclusively religious festival, and never has been. Its history goes back thousands of years. The early church didn’t approve of the hedonistic festivities to begin with, so they didn’t decide to call it Christmas until the fourth century. They had no chance of trying to stop people from enjoying themselves as they pleased, or not, as the case may have been. So let’s forget about using public money to mark any religious festivals, and leave it up to everyone, religious or not, to do as they please. They will anyway.