Bruce Russell: Christmas is under attack

Author
Bruce Russell,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Friday, 30 November 2018, 12:31p.m.
The grinches who would deny us Christmas, say it would offend those who subscribe to religions other than Christian ones. Photo / NZ Herald

Christmas is just around the corner, we hear that phrase every year at this time, and it is.

But is it Christmas or is it happy holidays? Does the word Christmas have to be denigrated, abolished, replaced by other words because Christmas contains the word, Christ? These days, in what governments have decreed is a secular society, it's no longer appropriate. 

Helen Clark spent most of her prime ministership drumming that message in.

Religion has no place in the business of the state, except to most of us who grew up with Christmas as the most magical exciting time of the year and something to look forward to all year as we ploughed our way through the three terms of school.

Many resent the interference of the state in our celebration of Christmas, and the interference of the social engineers who would have us celebrate happy holidays, send greetings cards, enjoy the festive season, have a piece of festive cake, and go to the local Santa parade, not Christmas parade.

It's parade season, and in most towns now it's the Santa Parade and Father Christmas is Santa Claus.

In Auckland, the Council funding organisation ATEED is withdrawing public funding for the parade, which has been running every November for 85 years. Its long-term Destination Auckland 2025 Strategy aims to grow tourism and the local economy in a sustainable way.

It says the Farmers' Santa parade no longer fits and is not a big driver of domestic tourism into Auckland.

General manager of Destination, Steve Armitage says the Chinese lantern festival and the Diwali festival have programmes of activity sustained for a week or so and are more promotable and likelier to attract more visitors.

In the 2016/17 financial year, those two festivals attracted 1450 and 2810 bed nights respectively. The Parade is no longer a priority event.

Which is very sad for a city whose vibrancy and community spirit are enhanced by the parade, which attracts hundreds of thousands of families, of parents and their kids, into the usually virtually deserted CBD and lights up the faces of onlookers with delight, as they watch a colourful array of favourite characters, marching groups, bands, clowns, floats of every description, and of course Santa in his sleigh, the most identifiable icon of them all.  

The grinches who would deny us Christmas, say it would offend those who subscribe to religions other than Christian ones in our new multicultural society. That's their excuse for shutting down the word Christmas, but their true agenda is that they themselves have decided Christmas is no longer an appropriate word and would have us wish each other Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas. 

People from those other religions and cultures phone me on talkback and tell me they are not at all offended. They are offended by the accusation that they are offended. They themselves take their kids to the parade to witness this Western heritage spectacle, just as we transpire welcome to participate in the lantern festival and Diwali.

Steve Armitage says the Pride Parade is another example of an event seeing solid growth in terms of attracting visitors from outside of Auckland. But that parade is now in chaos and its future in doubt.

He says the Santa parade runs for just a few hours on one day of the year and the mayor and council are looking for alternative revenue streams, to reduce the dependency on ratepayers.

The parade this year was facing a $100,000 operating loss. Last year's loss was $78,000.

That's despite the support of several sponsors and more than a 1000 volunteers.

It's not only Auckland that has parade problems, Christchurch City councillors are also reportedly confused as to why a Santa parade was not classed as a major event and supported by that city's events agency.

Do councils, known for spending millions on feasibility studies and expensive decorative mirrors and screens in libraries and heaven knows what, have some social responsibility to help foster such an event in the spirit of Christmas and to foster community spirit.

I think so. I as, a ratepayer expect that such an occasion is something that should attract some council money, along with that of sponsors. Let the grinches think again before they further torpedo an event that brings pleasure and delight and joy and continues to have tremendous public support. For the one in five Kiwi families, the Sallies say can't afford Christmas, it's a wonderful pageant, and it's free.

Thank goodness for Gull New Zealand stepping up and supporting the parade for the next two years. They may sell more petrol, but their generosity is encapsulated by their general manager Dave Bodger who says leaving an iconic event like this in jeopardy is Grinch-like and not on.

He says it's Christmas, after all. He's right. 'Onya Gull, 'onya Santa,and 'onya Christmas.

Forever.