I recently (and rather belatedly) got around to getting a diary for next year. Glancing through all the information on the opening pages (from astrological signs to Chinese animal years to a calorie and cholesterol counter) I made a rather curious discovery: it lists Jewish and Islamic holy days, but not Christian ones. Honestly. Okay, it does list “Public holidays” and these include “Good Friday” and “Christmas Day” which I suppose one could argue are Christian holy days. But Easter is not mentioned although the day after it is listed as “Family day.” Neither are Ascension, Pentecost or any other Christian feasts.

Please don’t misunderstand me: I am not objecting to people knowing about Islamic and Jewish feasts, indeed I would argue that this should also be extended to Hindu feasts. Neither am I saying that all Christian feasts should be public holidays. But I am seeking to highlight the way in which the very historical dominance of Christianity in this country has in fact led to its becoming invisible. The secularization of Christmas and Easter is simply part of life. However, when that secularization comes to define Christianity, so that it is eclipsed as a religion and ends up having less public identity than other religions, there is something very wrong.

This reminds me of a radio programme I overheard a while back. People were discussing end of year Christmas parties, and whether special provision should be made for Moslems who objected to being in places where alcohol is drunk. This led on to whether special provision should be made for Jews and kosher food and so on. But what struck me was that some people saw the dietary constraints of such religious groupings as being in contrast to the “Christian” majority who do not have any such dietary constraints. Given that the Nativity fast had just started this somehow struck me as decidedly odd! But I mention it here because it also underlines how the identification of Christianity (and an overwhelmingly western and largely Protestant Christianity at that) with a society somehow robs it of a religious identity that other religious groupings have been able to maintain.