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Church leaders turn on Santa

The modern cult of Father Christmas has been condemned by Church leaders who want to restore St Nicholas as the symbol of the festive season.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, is backing the move to put the fourth-century saint at the heart of Christmas. He applauds the notion of reminding people of the "great gift-giver who was the bishop St Nicholas. He and his legend epitomise Christian sacrifice, generosity and compassion."

Apparently many children now regard Father Christmas, given his latest incarnation by the Coca-Cola company in a Forties drinks commercial, rather than Jesus Christ as the central character in the celebration.

It seems John Lewis is equally confused over the part Joseph played in the nativity. The carpenter who married to Mary is missing from sets of nativity scenes sold in their department stores.

A sales assistant told an eagle-eyed customer who spotted his absence:

"Joseph has done a runer!" But George Austin, the former archdeacon of York, said: "At least John Lewis clearly believes in the virgin birth."

When it comes to Christmas dinner let's hope peas aren't on the menu as British children are becoming so inept at using cutlery that food scientists are to develop new, larger, easy-to-eat peas (I'm not making this up). Eating pizzas and burgers in front of the television has put paid to table etiquette. Even worse, as a Tesco spokesman explained: "Fast-food culture is threatening the survival of the British garden pea." The supermarket is to develop a bigger, firmer pea that can be easily stabbed with a fork.

The year couldn't end without a mention of the Dome. Just when you thought it was all over, the impresario Harvey Goldsmith, who staged Live Aid with Bob Geldof, has devised a plan for a series of spectacular pop concerts to save the Greenwich tent. Don't let that spoil your Christmas.

Diane Spencer

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