Now The Daily Mail Cancels Winterval
We stated in an article on 26 September that Christmas has been renamed in various places Winterval. Winterval was the collective name for a season of public events, both religious and secular, which took place in Birmingham in 1997 and 1998. We are happy to make clear that Winterval did not rename or replace Christmas’ – The Daily Mail Corrections
Melanie Phillips claimed that:
Christmas has been renamed in various places ‘Winterval’.
Winterval is a media myth. It never existed.
Minoroity Thought tells us:
Winterval was in fact a way for Birmingham City Council to more effectively (and more cheaply) market a series of winter festivals, including Christmas. The idea that Christmas was actually renamed “Winterval” and therefore effectively abolished simply isn’t true.
In 1998 the BBC reported:
Birmingham City Council used the phrase to describe its programme of festive family events over Christmas and the New Year.
The change is being made because city council officials hope to create a more multi-cultural atmosphere in keeping with the city’s mix of ethnic groups.
But the media loved it:
Pope Benedict XVI yesterday made an impassioned plea for Britain to return to its Christian values and condemned the “politically correct brigade” who dismiss Christmas…In recent years there have been cases of schools cancelling Christmas Nativity plays for fear of offending non-Christians and replacing them with winterval festivals.
Speaking to a packed Westminster Hall in London, he [Pope] urged people to turn their backs on the use of words like “Winterval” to describe the festival of Jesus’s birth.
He [Pope] urged his VIP audience to use their “respective spheres of influence” to help turn back a tide that has seen Christmas renamed Winterval.
The Pope never uttered the word Winterval.
Eric Pickles was not listening:
“We should actively celebrate the Christian basis of Christmas, and not allow politically correct Grinches to marginalise Christianity and the importance of the birth of Christ. The War on Christmas is over, and likes of Winterval, Winter Lights and Luminous deserve to be in the dustbin of history.
Perhaps the most notorious of the anti-Christmas rebrandings is Winterval, in Birmingham, and when you telephone the Birmingham city council press office to ask about it, you are met first of all with a silence that might seasonably be described as frosty.
“We get this every year,” a press officer sighs, eventually. “It just depends how many rogue journalists you get in any given year. We tell them it’s bollocks, but it doesn’t seem to make much difference.”
According to an official statement from the council, Winterval – which ran in 1997 and 1998, and never since – was a promotional campaign to drive business into Birmingham’s newly regenerated town centre. It began in early November and finished in January.
During the part of that period traditionally celebrated as Christmas, “there was a banner saying Merry Christmas across the front of the council house, Christmas lights, Christmas trees in the main civil squares, regular carol-singing sessions by school choirs, and the Lord Mayor sent a Christmas card with a traditional Christmas scene wishing everyone a Merry Christmas”.
To make things worse, it was not a myth copied and perpetuated solely by the tabloids; the broadsheets were equally responsible for repeating it, and perhaps did more to legitimise it than the tabloids. The Sunday Times, for instance, used the myth as a question and answer in three quizzes, twice in 1998 and then again in 2000.
Between them, the Times and the Sunday Times have in fact managed to repeat the myth 40 times in total since 1998, an achievement only surpassed by the Daily Mail, which leads the field with 44 mentions. The Daily Telegraph managed to repeat it 22 times, only slightly behind the Express (26), and a bit further behind the Sun (31). The Daily Mirror only seems to have repeated the myth on four occasions – less than the Guardian, which has repeated it on six occasions, even though it did eventually debunk the myth in several different articles.