Miles Kington: We wish you a non-denominational holiday

We're trying to take the Christmas out of Christmas. We don't want non-Christians to feel left out
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"Adrian!" I cried.

He didn't hear me. He had a pair of earphones on his head. I removed them and said: "Adrian!"

"Oh, hi," he said. "Have a listen of this."

He put the earphones on my head. To my amazement he was listening to a rendition of "Jingle Bells".

"Adrian!" I said. "'Jingle Bells'?"

"I'm working," he said. "It's part of my work."

"Tell me about it."

"Certainly," he said. He steered me into a bar called Waters of the World, and as soon as he had ordered two glasses of Romanian sparkling, he told me the story.

"This is highly confidential," he said, "but the government has asked me to come up with a plan for carols."

"Christmas carols?" I said.

He looked pained.

"I wish you wouldn't call them that. It's very sectarian to call them Christmas carols."

"What else can a carol be but a Christmas carol?"

"Ah!" said Adrian. "That's what we're working on! We're trying to take the Christmas out of Christmas! You see, Christmas is a feast for everyone, but we don't want the non-Christians to feel left out of it. Can you imagine how someone who is not Christian feels when Christmas comes around?"

"Yes, I can," I said. "As a born-again agnostic, I know exactly how it feels."

"I'm talking about people who have their own proper faith," he said. "That's why we are encouraging people to say 'Happy Holiday' to each other instead of 'Happy Christmas'."

"And you're going to remove all mention of the birth of Jesus from Christmas carols?"

"Ssssh!" said Adrian, looking round in alarm. "Don't talk out loud about the birth of Jesus."

"In case the information falls into the wrong hands?" I said.

Adrian looked pained.

"No, we're not going to rewrite carols," he said. "What we are going to do is encourage people to sing the ones that avoid all mention of religion."

"Like which?"

"Like 'Jingle Bells'. Like 'I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas'. Like 'Rudolph ...' "

"Hold on!" I said. "I'm not going round our village singing about a bloody red-nosed reindeer!"

"Ah!" said Adrian. "So you do sing carols, then? Even though you're an agnostic?"

"Yes," I said. "I enjoy it. It's a nice tradition."

"And you're not afraid of offending those of a different religious persuasion?"

"If there were any Muslims, or Parsees, or Buddhists in our village," I said, "I think they would be offended to be left out!"

"Still and all," he said, "I think you ought to seriously consider the alternative."

"The alternative?"

"Instead of singing the words, just stick to the tune. Instead of carol singing, why not try 'holiday humming'?"

"Holiday humming!?"

"That's what we are trying to call it," said Adrian, a touch defensively. "Just hum the tune. Omit the possibly controversial words."

"And how could you tell the difference between the first and second verses?"

"Get the sopranos to hum the second verse alone?" he suggested.

"Adrian!" I said. "This is political correctness gone mad!"

"Don't say 'mad'," he said. "You might offend any deranged people listening to us."

I left him to it. I seriously think that too much mineral water can addle the brain.

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