Janet Street-Porter: Ignore these killjoys - and happy Christmas

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The Independent Online

Celebrating Christmas in a traditional manner seems increasingly unfashionable, as a wave of political correctness has resulted in an increasing number of offices all over the country banning decorations in case non-Christian staff members are offended.

I can cope with my festive feast of goose being under attack from turkey-lover Nigella Lawson, but it's time for ordinary citizens to demand the right to enjoy Christmas in the way we always have, with carols on the radio, paper chains in the living room, drunken office parties, twinkling fairy lights and a marathon of television watching. Gordon Brown is always banging on about "Britishness", whatever that might be, and there's no other time of year which so perfectly sums up what's unique about this country.

Increasingly, people send me cards that shrink away from saying "Happy Christmas" as if it's a poisonous message. Fact - we may be a multicultural society, but Britain is predominately a Christian country, and Christmas is an important festival for both religious and historical reasons. Wonderful music and art has been created over the centuries celebrating the birth of Christ, and yet in 2006, we are reduced to wishing each other "happy holidays", and told not to decorate the office in case we fall off a chair or contravene a Health and Safety Directive. Anyone who plugs in more than a couple of strands of coloured lights is seen as an energy-squandering philistine.

Even for non-Christians, this a time of year when (hopefully) people are more pleasant to each other, give generously to those less fortunate than ourselves, and we spend more time with our friends and family. I am prepared to send recycled cards, use old wrapping paper, buy from sustainable organic sources and eat poultry that's had a happy life, all in the name of saving the planet, but I draw the line at turning on my television to be insulted by an "Alternative Christmas Message" delivered by a woman wearing a veil.

Sometimes Channel 4 tries so hard to be different that the result just seems inane - and this is one of those occasions. Since it was launched in 1993, the "Alternative" message has been delivered by The Simpsons, Ali G and the parents of murdered schoolboy Stephen Lawrence - all acceptable choices, if not everyone's cup of tea.

But justifying their choice in 2006 by claiming that "issues of religious and racial identity" have dominated the news agenda in the past year is particularly feeble. They have dominated the news for the last decade and will continue to do so. Channel 4 have chosen a woman wearing a niqab for one reason only - to offend as many women, Christian or not, as possible.

The female presenter in question was born in Zimbabwe and has become a British citizen - and has chosen the cowardly route of remaining anonymous. Deborah Orr kicked off the debate about the wearing of the veil in these pages, and many readers have written and e-mailed to say they agree with her - the wearing of the veil is demeaning to women, not required by the Islamic faith and has no place in an integrated Britain.

If you choose to wear the veil, that's fine by me, but to go on television during one of the most important religious festivals in the Christian calendar and patronise us about integration, is just unnecessarily provocative.

Take a look at Channel 4's Christmas offerings - what do they tell you about that broadcaster's particularly unbalanced view of womankind? We can tune into The Big Fat Quiz of the Year, presented by three men - Russell Brand, David Walliams and Rob Brydon. We can see What Monty Python (all men) Did Next. We can watch the puerile schoolboy humour of the Friday Night Project, or a documentary entitled Is Benny Hill Funny?

Don't despair, girls, apart from the anonymous lass in the veil, we've got Desperate Housewives and Charlotte Church to look forward to. Seasons greetings!

Now that's what I call an icon

Audrey Hepburn only starred in 27 films, but her iconic status lives on. This week the dress that she wore in the opening scene of Breakfast at Tiffany's was sold for £467,200, a world record for a film costume. Years ago I commissioned a documentary series about weird crazes in Japan, and discovered that Hepburn's face was the one most girls aspired to, asking plastic surgeons to change their eyes to resemble hers in the Breakfast at Tiffany's poster. To me, the most inspirational aspect of Ms Hepburn's life was not her film career, but her untiring work for Unicef from the 1950s until her death in 1993. It is appropriate that the profits from the sale of this dress will go to help underprivileged children in India.

* I've been travelling round the country performing my one-woman "entertainment", and this week I finally brought it to London, at the Reindeer Club, in the Truman Brewery off Brick Lane, a special venue built for the Christmas season. Since I first performed at the Edinburgh Festival three years ago, I've certainly improved with practice - I've done over 30 dates from Manchester to Darlington, Lancaster to Canterbury, sponsored by the Women's Institute in Norwich, and selling out in places as diverse as Minehead and Winchester. I've had some dud audiences in Worthing and Bridlington, and a member of the audience broke their leg falling off their seat during my performance in Maidenhead - we all repaired to the bar for the finale! I was a London virgin, in truth a bit of a coward. In the event, I seemed to go down quite well, and the audience included trendy group The Feeling, cult performers Kiki and Herb and fashion goddess Katie Grand. Thank goodness I couldn't see any of them. There's one more night, on 18 December, and then I'm returning to the provinces - slightly less nerve-racking.

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