It’s that time of year again!

Nowadays, from November until the “big day” itself there will be a steady trickle of stupid non-stories about councils banning Christmas, or having to say “Happy Holidays” or some such nonsense. Scratch the surface of this drivel and you usually find that the truth is far more prosaic than the headline promises.

Early off the blocks this year is Paul Vivian, an evangelical preacher from Grimsby. (I will resist the temptation to get all regionalist and say that they need some light and enlightenment up there … but ever since the great Austin Mitchell retired from Parliament they’ve been somewhat lacking!) Mr Vivian has got his little proselytising knickers in a twist over a billboard which has been doing the rounds and which wishes the public a “Mary Christmas” and invites them to the town’s “Supercalifragilistic Light Switch On”.

He was so shocked about it that he wrote to Grimsby Live (the local rag). He was full of “disgust and outrage”.  He says “The people responsible for inciting this offence are not in line with the law of this country or laws governing Human Rights, and I, as an ordained Minister of the Gospel request an immediate apology, and removal of this billboard!”  In his argument Mr Vivian cites Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which obliges countries to adopt legislative measures against “any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence”.

Now, call me old fashioned, but I would have said that inciting religious hatred would be something like advocating gassing Christians, or throwing Muslims off tall buildings – not equating the alleged birth of a person not proven to exist with the activities of the truly invented. (I’ll leave you to figure out which is which!)

Mr Vivian claims that “We need to lawfully and wholeheartedly respect all religions and their festivals, without preference or prejudice.

Err, like fuck we do! If that were truly the case we would not be having Christmas at all. There is no Biblical evidence that Jesus was born in December and no physical evidence for him at all. Given genuine respect for other cultures, we should be getting ready for the Winter Solstice – a celebration that 4th century Christians nicked.