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Friday, November 27, 1998 Published at 19:17 GMT


Put Christ back into Christmas - Hume

For many, Santas and fairy lights are key parts of Christmas

Catholic leader Cardinal Basil Hume has called for "Christ to be put back into Christmas" as commercialisation threatens to swamp the festive season.

Cardinal Hume, leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, warned against growing materialism as the year's busiest shopping time approaches.

Denise Mahoney on today's festive spirit
In an interview with the BBC, he said shops should not become cathedrals of commerce.

He said: "Giving presents at Christmas is a good thing and shopping is a good thing, but we have to be careful not to turn our shopping centres into cathedrals as it were, where we worship material things and riches.

[ image: Cardinal Hume is calling for greater spiritualism]
Cardinal Hume is calling for greater spiritualism
"What we really need to do is to bring back Christ into Christmas."

Cardinal Hume wants the shops to remind customers of the true meaning of Christmas.

"What I find is a lack of Christian symbols in our shop windows," said the cardinal. "It was a crib when I was a child - in your shop window as well as in your church - and so glitter and lights are taking the place of Christian symbols."

Waste not, want not

His comments coincided with environmentalists' calls for consumers to boycott shopping on Saturday.

They are protesting at a waste of the earth's resources because of over-commercialisation.

In Britain, more than £1bn is spent on decorating our homes, even more goes on food and drink and on average, £700 per head is spent on gifts.

[ image: Demands are high on parents]
Demands are high on parents
One Church of England charity, The Children's Society, has expressed concern over the intensity of Christmas advertising designed to encourage shoppers to equate affection with the amount of money spent on gifts.

It is worried that for less well-off families, Christmas is just too much to bear.

Spokesman Roger Smith said: "Families with low incomes, parents struggling to make ends meet are finding themselves forced to go without food in some cases, in order to provide the perfect Christmas for their children."

[ image: Christmas also takes its toll on the environment]
Christmas also takes its toll on the environment
Environmentalists also want consumers to cut back this Christmas. They claim 200,000 trees are destroyed every year to make cards for the UK alone and enough Christmas paper is used to wrap around the world twice.

Liana Stupples of Friends of the Earth said: "The problem with our level of resource use is that it is causing problems like pollution. It is creating gases which are polluting our atmosphere.

"It is creating big pile-ups of waste. We simply have to put in holes in the ground that in turn cause problems for our drinking water and our food."

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