So here we are, in another season of excess and commercialism, where the rest of the western world seems to spend a mad month spending money they don't have buying presents for people they don't really like, eating enough food to keep a small African country out of famine for a decade and drinking as much strange alcohol as they can (the likes of which they wouldn't touch during the rest of the year - take Advocaat/egg nogg for example, why on earth would you?!).
I don't celebrate Christmas, I focus on the Winter Solstice instead. When I tell people that I don't do Christmas, the usual response is to think that I sit at home being miserable on Dec 25th doing nothing at all. Not so. We do our celebrating on the shortest night (or over the weekend closest to it) and you may be surprised to hear that it is remarkably similar to other people's Christmas celebrations. Just less commercial and hypocritical.
This year, today in fact, our Prime Minister David Cameron has been bemoaning the lack of morals in British society, and has gone further than recent PMs in declaring that the country needs to get back to Christian values. I'm still hoping that we can do a political exchange with America and that Cameron and Mr Obama can spend a year (or more) running each other's countries - they would be so much more at home!
Britain is a Christian state, make no mistake about that. Our Queen (thanks to Henry VIII) is head of the Church of England, and there is no pretence of separation between church and state here at all. But as a country that has accepted immigrants of all shapes, colours and faiths over the years (sometimes a little more unwillingly than others), we are not a nation of Christian people. We are a truely multi-faith country, which includes those of no faith, and those whose faiths are not written down or widely practiced. Does that make them less moral? I would argue absolutely not.
Christians don't have the monopoly on morals. Indeed, there are many people in the world who claim Christianity and yet hand out some of the most abhorrant punishments to wrong-doers. They claim to be against abortion, but in the same breath cheer when someone is put to death by the state. They claim to do good works for charity, but display more greed than the moneylenders outside the temple. Talk about having your cake and eating it too.
David Cameron's words would not be quite as worrying if he had not previously in the week stated that there would be measures taken to "help" the most anti-social and disruptive families in Britain. Nothing wrong with a bit of focused encouragement, but what happens when the families labelled as in need of "help" decide they don't want to aspire to middle-class Christian yummy-mummy cupcake baking with children who can't cross the road by themselves? What happens if these families "in need" become more and more from non-Christian homes? We already have parents moving house and pretending to go to church so that their kids can get into what the parent's perceive to be a "better" school. Better for whom though?
One of the best things about being British is that we are all different people living on a tiny little island, and for the most part we all get along. We don't have to all be the same, we're not milk that needs homogenising to stop the thicker bits floating to the top after a while (that happens with our politics regardless of what we do). Yes, anyone who wants to and has the academic capability should have a chance of a University education, but University-level education doesn't suit everyone. Yes we need lawyers, bankers, politicians and teachers, but we also need plumbers, zoo keepers, hairdressers and bar staff too.
What David Cameron seems to have missed is this: no one in Britian is better than anyone else, we are all good at being ourselves, and some people just get paid more for being themselves than others do. Instead of telling the majority of the country that we have no morals because we're not Christian, David Cameron would be better off recognising that he is the only one of him that we'll ever need, and somewhere in the Bible it mentions being there for the sick, needy, imprisoned etc and not bullying them by taking away their homes, jobs, children, money and self-respect.