In a shock announcement yesterday the Minister for Unintentional Humour David Benson Pope announced the government is concerned about the stress Christmas causes for many families and may consider cancelling it.
“Every year we see families under financial pressure, there are marital disputes, kiddies not getting an X-Box and so on. This takes a terrible toll, not only on families but also on social services, the SPCA dealing with pets abandoned when people go off to the beach homes on the Coromandel, and frayed nerves in the retail sector.
“Every year we have reports from women’s refuge organisations which show a sudden increase in their client base, and from retailers who say people are leaving their buying until the last minute -- and this causes them considerable problems.
"Retailers for example complain every year that it looks like pre-Christmas profits will be down, but then have to put up with astonishing sales in the last week.
“This creates considerable uncertainty in the retail sector and the public should be sympathetic to that.
“So as a government we are saying people should shape up a bit, and if we see a repeat of last year’s behaviour then we’ll be giving serious thought to introducing legislation into the House which would cancel Christmas entirely.”
Benson Pope’s announcement has found favour in a number of sectors.
Head of the Liberal Association for Sensitive Legislation Ms Kiri Sunderland says the government may well be reflecting the changing nature of New Zealand society.
“It used to be that this was a predominantly Christian country but that is no longer the case. Christmas in its many manifestations like holidays, gift-giving and good cheer can be offensive to those who do not share a belief in Christ. For these people this is an especially difficult time during which they may feel marginalised and under pressure to be happy over a holiday period not of their own choosing.
“As a society we need to be more sensitive to the needs of migrant peoples. Abandoning the ritual and commercialism of Christmas would go a long way to make them feel more welcome. It’s not like people need holidays at that time anyway.
“Staggered holidays makes more sense, you could take your three week break and go to the beach in July for example.”
Somewhat surprisingly a few Christian groups have also agreed with Benson Pope and have suggested that by banning Christmas the commercialisation of the celebration will be diminished.
“This is a day to rejoice in the birth of our saviour Jesus Christ,” said the Reverend
James de Pifilco yesterday, “and increasingly it has become a reason to sell bicycles, pornography and DVDs by Mel Gibson. I for one welcome the banning of all overt acknowledgement of the birth of Christ to allow people to celebrate in silence in their own homes.
“I don’t think it is going too far to say all shops, use of private motor vehicles, public transport and any outdoor activity should also be banned for a period around the actual birthday of Christ which was, as we all know, December 25th -- or thereabouts.”
Organisations representing the under-privileged, animal welfare, disgruntled consumers and those who have to work through the Christmas holidays have also offered their support in banning Christmas.
“There are far too many people in this country who just want to have fun,” says Hilda Mappleston of the anti-Enjoyment League. “We have seen people have parties with friends, and enjoy barbecues on beaches and in public parks with little thought of the consequences, or for the opinion of others.
“It is a well known fact that there is a lot of domestic violence and unhappy wee kiddies at this time, and so for those reasons alone Christmas should be banned.
“Most people don’t even know what it is we are supposed to be celebrating, they just enjoy themselves. Every year thousands of people get out and have fun, and you just know that someone somewhere -- or a kitten -- will get hurt.
"It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye.
“If we need to have any such celebrations they should be done in public parks under close supervision of local authorities and the police. We need more restrictions in this country to curtail enjoyment and fun, not fewer.”
Mr Benson Pope said that a survey of people who never much enjoyed Christmas supports his opinion and so unless people behave themselves responsibly this festive season he will be introducing legislation when the House resumes after the Christmas holidays.