Dublin: An Irish Catholic priest has called for Christians to stop using the word Christmas because it has been hijacked by “Santa and reindeer”.
Father Desmond O’Donnell said Christians of any denomination need to accept Christmas now has no sacred meaning.
O’Donnell’s comments follow calls from a right wing pressure group for a boycott of Greggs bakery in the UK after the company replaced baby Jesus with a sausage roll in a nativity scene.
“We’ve lost Christmas, just like we lost Easter, and should abandon the word completely,” O’Donnell told the Belfast Telegraph.
“We need to let it go, it’s already been hijacked and we just need to recognise and accept that.”
O’Donnell said he is not seeking to disparage non-believers. “I am simply asking that space be preserved for believers for whom Christmas has nothing to do with Santa and reindeer.
“My religious experience of true Christmas, like so many others, is very deep and real — like the air I breathe. But non-believers deserve and need their celebration too, it’s an essential human dynamic and we all need that in the toughness of life.”
A registered psychologist and author as well as an Oblate priest, O’Donnell said the meaning of Christmas had eroded over time and become commercialised.
“I’m just trying to rescue the reality of Christmas for believers by giving up ‘Christmas’ and replacing it with another word.”
O’Donnell said unless Catholicism addressed the reality of what the word Christmas has come to mean, “secularisation and modern life will continue to launder the church”.