Last night was the switch on for the Christmas lights here in Oxford. Nothing very remarkable in that as a civic event you might think, but in recent years this has become a big production number in the city.
Crowds of people fill the city centre - uncomfortably packed in at times and quite claustrophobic - and there are marching bands and processions of schoolchildren with lights and so forth. This year a small version of St Giles Fair had been set up by the morning on St Giles complete with fairground rides and all the attendant range of fast food stalls. Traffic is diverted, bus routes changed, places stay open until late.
Which may well be fine, but it is Christmas without Christ - or indeed Advent preceding it - and is Winterval at its most politically correct. If it is religious then it is also Hanukkah and Diwali, and probably Pagan as well - the solstice is not far off. But at the same time it is not. It is totally lacking in what any of those festivals are about. It is the worship of materialism. I first remember seeing something similar as a BBC Wales television programme in the late 1970s and its non-Christian "Happy Holidays" culture seemed aberrant then. It still does.