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Last Updated: Friday, 23 December 2005, 04:25 GMT
The Christmas resistance
By Emma Griffiths
BBC News website, London

Christmas lights on Oxford Street
The mainstream approach to Christmas on Oxford Street

In Oxford Street, at the heart of London's shopping district, the signs of Christmas excess are evident.

Chandelier-style Christmas lights swing overhead, men in Santa outfits shake charity tins, shoppers pack out the pavements in the search for the perfect present.

But off a side street in Soho, art gallery Santa's Ghetto is snubbing the Christmas spirit, for the fourth December in a row.

Outside Death roasts a reindeer on a revolving spit. Overhead a cartoon dog surrounded by boxes barks: "What have you got me for Christmas? I WANT MORE."

Screenprinter Ben Flynn, who helps run the gallery, said: "Last year we hung a Father Christmas from a noose out of the first floor window - but Westminster City Council made us take it down.

We are kind of anti-capitalist, anti-consumerist. But we sell things
Ben Flynn
"I think we had upset some children who thought Father Christmas was actually dead and therefore they weren't going to get any presents."

This year a crucified Father Christmas coconut shy is tucked out of sight of passing children, while a picture of Christ on the cross, holding Christmas shopping bags, has sold out.

"We are kind of anti-capitalist, anti-consumerist, " said Mr Flynn.

"But we sell things."

Ritualistic trap

In Sheffield, Steve Lewis, 45, is updating his AntiChristmas Zone website, this year complete with "anti-Santa training game".

"I did it as a bit of a laugh for my friends but now it's been linked into other anti-Christmas sites around the world," he told the BBC News website.

Model outside Santa's Ghetto
Death and the reindeer

Mr Lewis had considered putting up a black Christmas tree "with hand grenades instead of baubles" for the big day. Instead he will visit his mother in London, a fellow Christmas hater, to make sure she is not alone.

He believes his website reflects many people's feelings.

"I think a lot of people think about it but do get trapped in this ritual of having to buy stuff for people when they don't really want to and having to send out all these cards. I don't like the insincerity.

"It grows into this huge festival of consumerism... and it indoctrinates children into a consumerist lifestyle."

Merry Winterval-Solstice-Holiday Season

If it is not under threat from the anti-commercialism lobby, there is a view that Christmas is falling victim to political correctness.

This year Lambeth Council in south London has been lambasted for calling its Christmas lights "winter lights".

Meanwhile the National Secular Society has gleefully launched its own "Insanely Politically Correct Winterval-Solstice-Holiday Season non-Christmas on-line shop".

Although we come across as being anti-Christmas, we actually love Christmas
Ben Flynn
The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has said Christmas was in danger of being turned into a secular winter festival, through political correctness and consumerism.

But is Christmas itself really under attack?

A spokesman for the Church of England told the BBC News website that being irritated by the commercial side of the festive season was not being "anti-Christmas", as it was a feeling shared by many practicing Christians.

And he pointed to a survey of 1,109 adults suggesting that 43% of British adults expect to go to church over the Christmas period.

Christian hunger

The survey, commissioned by the CofE, found numbers had been steadily rising since the first one in 2001, when 33% expected to attend.

Bishop of Manchester the Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch said the figures showed "the busy-ness of the season hasn't crowded out the hunger for the Christmas message".

He added that the festival was still an important way for Christians to connect with the "wider community".

Back in Soho, Mr Flynn said they did not set out to be deliberately provocative with Santa's Ghetto: "People enjoy Christmas and we don't take it seriously - it's a bit of a joke.

"Although we come across as being anti-Christmas, we actually love Christmas."

Row as Christmas lights renamed
02 Nov 05 |  London
Council now says it is Christmas
06 Dec 05 |  Hampshire
Why get cross about Xmas?
22 Dec 04 |  Magazine

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