Leading article: Ho ho ho!

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The Independent Online

Poor old Santa Claus. He just can't seem to do anything right these days. In Berlin, he stands accused of National Socialist sympathies, after shoppers detected a stiff-armed salute in some miniature wooden statues on sale. Meanwhile he is lambasted by health campaigners for his long-standing advertising contract with Coca-Cola.

He has also become a victim of the rampant anti-American sentiment of our times. Santa is resented for being a brash US upstart who has eclipsed traditional distributors of seasonal largesse such as Father Christmas (Britain), Noel Baba (Turkey), Julenissen (Norway), Viejo Pascuero (Chile), Deda Mraz (Bosnia), Gaghant Baba (Armenia) and San Nicklaw (Malta).

Now we learn that Czech advertisers have had enough of him too. The Creative Copywriters' Club argues that in their country baby Jesus, or "Jezisek", has always had the job of delivering the gifts. In their view, Santa should take a flying sleigh ride back to where he came from. An anti-red-velvet revolution is in the air.

It all seems terribly vindictive to us. What absurdities will this Santa-bashing result in next? An Asbo to prevent him going anywhere near a chimney? A campaign to close down elvish sweatshops? A visit from the RSPCA to Lapland to investigate allegations of reindeer abuse?

It's a good job Santa's such a jovial soul. If so much vitriol had been heaped on a lesser man, we suspect that everyone would be getting a lump of coal in their stocking this year. And it would serve them right, too, for being naughty, not nice.

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