BY Peter Diamond | December 14 2018 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Call to put Jesus at the heart of Christmas after nativities snub

Update: The SCO has since publication been informed that the intu Braehead shopping centre and the Forge Shopping Center in Glasgow have nativity displays.

Only six out of 26 major shopping centres across Scotland have Christmas nativity scenes, it has been revealed, prompting concerns over aggressive secularism, commercialism and the true meaning of Christmas.

This week the SCO contacted 26 major shopping centres in towns and cities across Scotland. Only six had nativity displays.

Cities including Edinburgh and Aberdeen that have extensive areas of retail failed to display a religious nativity in their shopping centres.

When asked if the retail venue had a nativity scene, some outlets said they had ‘a grotto or nativity,’ but when pressed many admitted it was just a ‘Santa’s grotto’ or ‘Christmas scene’ and there was no religious element.

The SCO only found six major retail outlets that have a nativity display this Advent: Clyde Shopping Centre, EK East Kilbride, Kingdom Centre Glenrothes and Eastgate Centre Inverness, intu Braehead and the Forge Shopping Center in Glasgow.


Secular shopping

The silencing of Christian displays during Advent was highlighted last week after the management at the Thistles Shopping Centre in Stirling branded themselves religiously neutral when rejecting a request by the local Legion of Mary group for a Nativity scene.

The Legion of Mary for St Mary’s Church, Stirling, said: “While we understand that no one wants religious or political evangelists in a shopping centre, the request was simply to have a nativity, which would be manned and anyone approaching could ask about it.”

The shopping centre has now backed down and agreed to the Legion of Mary’s request.

Responding to the news, the Catholic Church said the shopping centre was to be commended. However, addressing the wider issue, a spokesman said it is ‘dispiriting to witness the effects of an increasingly secular and hostile society on religious belief and practice particularly at Christmas.’

The parish priest of St Mary’s Church in Stirling, Fr Andrew Kingham, had previously backed his Legion of Mary group who simply wanted to share the ‘true meaning of Christmas’ for one Saturday in Advent.



Fr Kingham said the Stirling Legion of Mary had been campaigning on the issue for three years, and only received a response from the Thistle centre after the Legion enlisted the support of local MP Stephen Kerr.

“For me the issue has highlighted that there are those who want to keep Christ out of Christmas and that is a challenge we as Christians will have to bravely meet. Personally I feel the issue is about religious freedom. If there was a visible display for Jewish people supporting Hanukkah, or Muslims celebrating Eide, I wouldn’t have a problem with supporting that freedom of religion to be displayed publicly,” he said before the shopping centre’s u-turn.

He added: “The customers are more than just consumers and I think shopping centres that take up such vast spaces of retail within town and city centres have a duty and a role to engage with their shoppers on more than just the product, particularly Christians at this time of the year.

“There have been positive outcomes in other areas where this has been an issue. I know the Wellgate Centre in Dundee and Howgate Centre in Falkirk have allowed Christians stall space, even if it’s just one Saturday during Advent, to display and tell the story of Christmas.

“Incredibly there are a lot of people in society who don’t know the true meaning of Christmas and many more who need reminding, and enjoy hearing about the story of Christ, hence why there are more people attending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Mass than an ordinary Sunday.


Church Response

A spokesman for the Church said: “It is dispiriting to witness the effects of an increasingly secular and hostile society on religious belief and practice, and so initiatives which aim to promote the true meaning of Christmas, particularly to children and young people, are most welcome.

“Christians make up over half, 54 per cent, of the population in Scotland. Their challenge this Advent is to bear witness to the wonder of the birth of Christ and help others understand that they are called to celebrate the religious reality of Christmas too.”

He added: “Religious figures and nativity scenes in shopping centres are a gentle reminder of the true meaning of Christmas and often serve as a place of refuge for busy shoppers at this time of year.

“They allow people to reflect on the hope of the birth of Christ on earth; a gift that can never be lost, sold, forgotten or returned in the new year.”



Responding to the Thistles Centre’s original nativity ban, Anthony Horan, director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office, said the UK has ‘adopted a form of extreme secularism as its default setting.’

“Proponents desire more than simple separation of Church and State; they want every trace of religion banished from public life altogether. It is an intolerant and illiberal proposition,” he said.

“It is quite fascinating to hear that the Thistles Centre desires to support the local community by celebrating Christmas but that it refuses to do so if the support suggests affiliation with a specific religion. Perhaps they need to look up the definition of ‘Christmas’ and explore its origins.”

This week, Archbishop Leo Cushley asked people to find the ‘ultimate good’ when giving and receiving gifts this Christmas.

The archbishop said: “As Catholics, we should enjoy all the good things in life including Christmas festivities and, yes, the buying and giving of gifts but we also recognise that they are but proximate goods that only find their true purpose and place in relationship to that ultimate good which is the infant Jesus, the Christ child, God incarnate.”


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