Greek member of the European Parliament Anna-Michelle Asimakopoulou defended on Thursday what she considers “the right of European citizens to say ‘Merry Christmas'” in response to a debate surrounding the word “Christmas” in the European parliament on Wednesday.
EU equality commissioner Helena Dalli initially drafted a manual used for communications in EU institutions that suggested replacing “Christmas” with secular words. The guide was purportedly aimed at avoiding discrimination and promoting inclusivity.
After receiving significant criticism, the manual has been withdrawn, because it recommended banning the word “Christmas” in communications.
EU Parliament debates “Merry Christmas”
The controversial document, titled “Union of Equality,” recommended the expression “holiday period” instead of “Christmas period.” The document even proposed that traditionally Christian names such as “Mary” and “John” not be used anymore.
According to the European Commission, the intention was not to cancel Christmas or Christianity itself but to replace words that “could be offensive.” Some examples cited were gender-referencing words such as “ladies and gentlemen,” which should be replaced by with more neutral phrases like “dear colleagues.”
On Wednesday, a debate surrounding the use of the word “Christmas,” as well as the document itself, raged on.
Asimakopoulou stressed her goals of fighting for “equality and anti-discrimination” when she became an MEP, and that she “never imagined that there would be such a debate” in the European Parliament.
“It’s not necessary for the EU to deny our history, traditions, and Europe’s Christian heritage to fight against discrimination,” she continued.
She finished her speech by wishing all her fellow MEPs a Merry Christmas.
While many MEPs such as Asimakopoulou found the issue to be pressing, other MEPs considered the matter to be unnecessary, as the manual had already been withdrawn and the debate took up time allotted for discussions on poverty and the climate.
MEPs critique debate as non-issue
Spanish MEP Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar called the debate “bogus.”
“This [manual] isn’t even an official document. It’s not a legitimate file. It’s not even an official communication from the Commission,” he stressed.
Alice Kuhnke, MEP from Sweden, said: “We’re facing considerable challenges and you decide to make a mountain out of a molehill…You should be talking about the climate crisis, about how we’re to save our planet.”
“Your religions are not at risk and your festive festivities will not be cancelled,” said Spanish MEP Sira Rego.
Author of manual “cancelling Christmas” apologizes
In response to the backlash to cancel Christmas and even references to Christian saints’ names, Dalli, who had tweeted a picture of herself with the guidelines on October 26 along with comments speaking of her pride in launching the document, issued an apology.
Dali stated “My initiative to draft guidelines as an internal document for communication by commission staff in their duties was intended to achieve an important aim: to illustrate the diversity of European culture and showcase the inclusive nature of the European commission towards all walks of life and beliefs of European citizens.
“However, the version of the guidelines published does not adequately serve this purpose. It is not a mature document and does not meet all commission quality standards. The guidelines clearly need more work. I therefore withdraw the guidelines and will work further on this document.”