Christmas lights in August? For all faiths, says council

A Council in the North of England is putting up Christmas lights in August in order to celebrate the religious festivals of several faiths.

Rochdale Borough Council say the lights in Milnrow, Lancashire, will be used to celebrate a number of festivals, starting with the Muslim feast of Eid in September.

Other “holy days” over the next few months include Hindu Diwali celebrations in October, the Jewish feast of Hanukkah in December and even Yule, the pagan celebration of the winter solstice.

Council workers began installing the lights on Wednesday, 127 days before Christmas.

A local resident said: “It’s absolutely ludicrous. It’s the height of summer and they’re putting up Christmas lights. I couldn’t believe it.

“The worker told me they had to all be put up in time for all the religious festivals coming up – but most of the lights refer to the Christian Christmas.”

A spokesman for Rochdale Borough Council said: “We’re getting into the festive spirit early this year. Festive lights will be installed across the borough by October 19 and the work is underway now.

“These lights will be used to celebrate a number of festivals, commencing with Eid next month.”

Last month it was reported that Christmas carollers are to be banned from the Houses of Parliament in case they inconvenience MPs having lunch.

And in May the Foreign Office launched a consultation on whether Christmas merited a special greeting for embassy officials, after Foreign Secretary David Miliband missed it last year but remembered Ramadan.

Last year council officials in Oxford were condemned by residents and religious leaders for attempting to drop Christmas from the title of the city’s celebrations in an attempt to be “more inclusive”.

Officials were also criticised for suggesting that instead of having Christmas lights, the historic city should be decorated with a huge mobile of lanterns in the shape of the solar system.

Also last year, councillors in Tower Hamlets, East London, were told not to eat in town hall meetings during the Muslim month of Ramadan.

But the same council renamed a staff Christmas party as a ‘festive meal’ and banned Guy Fawkes at bonfire night.

In 2004 Peterborough City Council banned staff from sending each other Christmas greetings by email.

And in 2003 Buckinghamshire County Council banned a church from publicising its Christmas services on a community notice board to avoid offending other religions.

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