The Myth: The PC Brigade have deemed Christmas to be offensive, so have replaced it with ‘Winterval’.
The Truth: In 1997 and 1998 (only), Birmingham Council (only) used the term ‘Winterval’ as a marketing name for 3 months of seasonal festivities at their newly regenerated town centre, including Chinese New Year, Diwali (The Festival of Lights) and of course, Christmas.
This picture says more than an entire essay could:
That’s ‘Winterval’ there in the bottom right hand corner.
THIS is what spawned off quotes such as:
“Now it seems, the secular world, which expresses
respect for all, is actually embarrassed by faith. Or perhaps it is Christianity
which is censored.” –
Rev Mark Santer, Birmingham bishop
…which was followed by this:
“The pressure on Christians, however, is merely part of a far wider onslaught on Western culture through the hijacking or censorship of language.
Thus Christmas has been renamed in various places ‘Winterval’”.-
Melanie Phillips, Daily Mail
[sic] “Christmas is what it his, leave it alone England has to may PC mad people if you don’t like it you can always leave!! move to another country end of the debate!!”
– A member of the Facebook group ‘WE’RE NOT GOING TO CALL CHRISTMAS ‘WINTERVAL’.
In November 2011, the Daily Mail retracted the lies after 13 years of stubbornly peddling them:
“A previous version of this article stated 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”.
Fascinatingly, pigswithwings.org.uk managed to catch up with the man who coined the term ‘Winterval’ in the first place. Read on to hear his side of the story.
In conversation with Polly Toynbee of The Guardian re the long running Winterval Saga, she suggested that, as the originator of Winterval, I should stand up and put my name to it. So here I am.
I am Mike Chubb, as Head of Events for Birmingham at the time I invented the term Winterval (41 days and nights of festive fun!), fully supported by The Council and the cultural and business community. I am continually fascinated that the term Winterval, ever caused (and still does) such a furore.
Quite simply, as Head of events at that time, we needed a vehicle which could cover the marketing of a whole season of events…Diwali (festival of Lights), Christmas lights switch on, BBC Children in Need, Aston Hall by Candlelight, Chinese New year, New Years eve etc. Also a season that included theatre shows and open air ice rink, Frankfurt open air Christmas market and the Christmas seasonal retail offer. Christmas, called Christmas! and its celebration, lay at the heart of Winterval.
Political correctness was never the reasoning behind Winterval, but yes it was intended to be inclusive (which is no bad thing to my mind) and a brand to which other initiatives could be developed as part of The Winterval offer in order to sell the City at a time when all cities are competing against each other for the seasonal trade.
Each part of Winterval had its own marketing plan… the same as ,for instance the marketing of a brand whose sub brands (ie chocolate)have their own niche marketing.
I do believe that those who took umbrage did it for their own reasons, to sell their own message and of course, everybody got on to their own hobby horses in the process.
I am amazed that no-one could see the simplicity of The Winterval brand, but read into it what they wanted; to further and give voice to their own aspirations/prejudices. It is time for Birmingham to be proud of Winterval and stand up for an innovative initiative that befits an outward looking city.
However on the plus side thank you for keeping the Winterval campaign going and keeping Birmingham in the World’s eye… what fantastic publicity.
To read more about the myth of Winterval, check out these links: