Dundee to celebrate Christmas with no reference to Christianity

IT IS a story that could have come straight out of the pages of Dr Seuss's The Grinch that Stole Christmas.

City leaders in Dundee are planning a spectacular festive celebration – but with no references to Christianity.

Hailed as a celebration of Dundee's contemporary culture and innovative past, festive season revellers are being promised a visual feast of projections and lights later this month. It will be a "Winter Light Night" of festive season illuminations, audiovisual displays, music, street art performances and a children's torchlight procession.

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But yesterday the city council and the event's organisers were under attack from church leaders, who accused them of eroding the religious significance of Christmas by removing all references to Christianity from the annual switch on of the city's Christmas lights.

And, instead of the traditional nativity story, the festival will feature a solar-powered disco, a continental market, a circus and a fairy on stilts.

Members of Dundee's Church of Scotland Presbytery have condemned the decision and are urging Kirk members to contact their local councillors to protest against the move.

The presbytery's church and society committee is also planning to raise the concerns with the city council.

The Rev Allan Webster, vice-convener of the committee and chaplain to both Dundee City Council and the city's Overgate Centre, said: "We understand that the Christmas lights are being switched on without the usual events surrounding that.

"The presbytery is concerned at the dropping of the term 'Christmas lights' in favour of 'winter lights' at the festival."

Mr Webster said the Kirk's convener was writing to the council chief exective to express concern. "Members of all the congregations within the presbytery are also being encouraged to take the matter up with their councillors.

"Christmas is a Christian festival, and the dropping of the term Christmas lights and the telling of the Christmas story is an erosion of the religious festival."

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He added: "I don't think there is anything sinister here. I think it is more a case of this having slipped through the cracks rather being any sort of politically correct move.

"The presbytery's concern is that somehow, the Christmas aspect of the festival has fallen off the edge."

Mr Webster also explained that as chaplain to the council, he had been invited last year to give a Christmas message before the lights switch-on. It appeared unlikely that he would be playing any role at this year's event.

But he stressed: "I am not knocking the whole programme. It is important for all faiths to be able to celebrate their festivals and I must stress I would also be concerned if people of any other religion had theirs diluted."

A spokesman for Dundee City Council said: "When we are contacted by Dundee Presbytery we will look at the points they are raising and respond to them."