Belfast Telegraph

Why it's time for churches to show some Christmas spirit and launch their own fightback over the festive season

By Lindy McDowell

Often, around this time of year, I've wondered to myself why the churches haven't ever had a go at trying to copyright Christmas?

Okay, so there will be inevitable logistical and legal hurdles. Two thousand and sixteen years after the event is a bit late in the day to try to launch a bid for exclusive rights.

Then again, if the anti-Brexiteers can go all the way to the Supreme Court in an ambitious attempt to overturn a referendum result, it might be worth a pop.

Recent controversy over a board game Santa v Jesus is an indication of where the big competition is now coming from. The aim of the game, which reportedly has become a Christmas best-seller in the US, is to pit two teams against each other to see who can garner most "believers".

Some see this as a good laugh at religion. Others call it blasphemous.

Most of us, believers or otherwise, will I think, probably fall somewhere in between. It's innocuous stuff, if a tad insensitive.

And even Santa himself is currently facing a bit of a non-belief backlash from the po-faced politically correct.

But out there in the shopping centres, on Christmas cards, and in overall festive branding, he is undoubtedly still storming ahead.

The churches complain. Even the very word "Christmas" they point out has now come under threat. It's Winterfest and Happy Holidays these days. And you try getting a Christmas card with a religious theme, they add.

Instead of complaining, they should maybe take a leaf out of the business manuals. If you're going to launch a fightback you need to be a bit more muscular about it.

Consider the market leaders. Look upon their eagle-eyed control of their brand. Disney's ferocious, persnickety monitoring of all logos featuring large-eared mice is legendary.

If Christmas was a Disney brand (and some would argue it already is) there'd be the movie, the song from the movie, the branded lunchbox collection and the ethnically-correct animated hero.

If FIFA were in charge of Christmas, the television rights to all carol services would have gone to Sky.

And without wishing to sound disrespectful to either party, if the Son of God had been the son of Victoria Beckham, she'd have long since devised a strategy for future brand capitalisation.

The churches, however, don't strategise. They just gripe. And not even in a robust, concerted or very organised sort of way.

For the record, I'm a big fan of Christmas, as is.

I love a party. Or several. As a non-believer it's not my primary concern that the religious message is being lost.

But I'm no worshipper of big business either, or of petty officialdom falling over itself to be all things to all persons and in doing so, fearing to even utter the C word.

If the collective Christian churches want to reclaim Christmas, fair play to them (within reason) I say. From the perspective of an onlooker I can see why they would feel that the religious rug is being swiped from under the festival.

But if they're going to recover lost ground, they're going to have to think a bit more outside the Christmas box.

Attempting to copyright Christmas may not be as wholly (holy?) daft then, as it sounds. It could be a winner - not just in the spiritual sense of cementing the festival's religious origins but also in material terms.

The brand rights to be biggest annual show on earth? Think of what that could rake in.

And please don't try to tell me the churches are only interested in one sort of prophet...

Patti speechless as Bob dodges Nobel bash

Poor Patti Smith. During a rendition of Bob Dylan's Hard Rain - a tribute to the no-show Nobel prize-winner at the Nobel ceremony in Stockholm - she suddenly ran out of words. "I'm so nervous," she explained.

We've all been there, Patti. Well...not at a Nobel ceremony obviously.

Not even Dylan was there. Apparently he had other more pressing commitments.

Surely it will be a long time, you imagine, before the Nobel committee next attempt outreach to the popular music community.

It's not just Ferraris going red over heat scheme

Revelations about the 'ash for cash' scandal just get crazier. Reports that a Ferrari showroom has been heated by a renewable energy scheme, costing the taxpayers hundreds of millions, has to be the most farcical.

The showroom owners did nothing illegal. The fault lies with the overly-generous Renewable Heat Initiative.

You can just imagine though, what pensioners - facing a winter with hefty fuel bills - will make of the idea of heating Ferraris.

Could you blame them for blowing a gasket?

Belfast Telegraph


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