Christians battling the decline of Christendom launched an assault on the Royal Mail yesterday demanding that snowmen, parcels and snowflakes be dropped from its Christmas stamps and only religious themes used in future.
The attack on the most popular annual designs for stamps, issued at the Post Office's busiest time of the year, came during a summer debate at the church's general synod at York University, amid complaints that what is a significant Christian festival is being ignored.
Some members of the synod clearly saw the choice of design as a plot to appease an increasingly secular society and wanted the card-sending public to have a constant reminder of the nature of the festival they are celebrating, reports the Guardian.
Such a position is at odds with those from a radical theological position who see the decline of religious imagery as an opportunity to celebrate and recognise the real meaning of Christian festivals rather than a threat.
However, some church members remain concerned about what they see as a playing down of the Christian message with some organisations dropping any mention of Christmas whatsoever. Being open and charitable however, speakers yesterday said that they did not mind other religions having their own festivals commemorated in stamps.
Christina Baxter, chair of the synod's house of laity who launched the debate, made an appeal to weight of numbers to support her position.
"Over 71% of the population declare themselves to be Christian and it is on that basis that we want to request the Royal Mail to issue Christmas stamps on Christian themes."
The actual figure for churchgoing is significantly less, with only 5% of the population in the UK attending a Church service on a Sunday.
The motion was carried unanimously. One synod member, Timothy Royle of Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire, said: "We live in an increasingly secular society in which people don't like Christianity to be recognised. Other faiths should be able to celebrate their own festivals with stamps but Christmas is fundamentally a Christian festival in our country."
A Royal Mail spokesman said that the mail tries to choose Christian themes every other year, except when it is running a competition which is thought to be inappropriate to be associated with Christianity. In fact, though, it has not had such a theme since 2001 and will not run specifically Christian stamps again until Christmas 2005.
The spokesman said: "We welcome the interest shown in our stamps. We issued our first Christmas stamp in 1966 and we have varied the design each year since. Although Christmas is a Christian festival we live in a multi-faith society and there is no set pattern in the choice of religious or secular themes and choice of subject matter."
Asked whether the Royal Mail might consider issuing Diwali stamps to commemorate the Hindu festival or Eid stamps to mark the end of Ramadan for Muslims, the spokesman said: "We receive thousands of requests every year for a special stamp. There are a limited amount of issues we can produce. We will listen to as many people as possible and will try to act on what a majority of them want us to do."