JESUS may have been born in a stable surrounded by animals but He is in danger of being overshadowed by dogs, cats, guinea pigs and hamsters this Christmas, it has been claimed.
Advent calendars are now two and a half times as likely to feature festive treats for pampered pets as pictures of the Baby Jesus, according to the maker of one of Britain’s only explicitly Christian versions.
David Marshall, founder of the Meaningful Chocolate Company, which makes charity fair-trade Christmas and Easter products, estimates that only 400,000 advent calendars on sale in British shops this year will feature a Christian theme.
By contrast, he estimates that more than a million advent calendars specifically for pets will be on retailers’ shelves, based on informal industry figures.
One chain of pet shops alone said it had sold 135,000 animal advent calendars by mid-December last year. Calendars containing treats for pets are also sold in major supermarkets.
“Based on conversations with people who make components for advent calendars it is clear that there are now about one million of these being produced in the UK each year,” said Mr Marshall.
““Stores are happy to cater for pet owners but don’t think Christians want to give children a quality advent calendar which connects with the Christmas story – it’s barking.
“Parents or grandparents looking for a calendar with religious or ethical content usually find nothing but superhero-themed calendars and £1 cheap chocolate versions on offer.
“Virtually no religious chocolate advent calendars are on the market.”.
Last week some Christians voiced anger over a Christmas advertisement for Mulberry featuring a handbag at the centre of a nativity scene instead of the baby Jesus.
And Starbucks has also faced a chorus of outrage in some quarters over a new Christmas cup design, which is now a plain red instead of featuring festive imagery..
Meanwhile the Archbishop of York has launched his own drive to restore the spirit of Christmas by bringing back the custom of sending personal hand-written Christmas cards instead of digital greetings.
Dr John Sentamu, who personally signs around 1,600 cards each year, is backing a campaign by Traidcraft, the fair trade organisation, to persuade people to buy charity Christmas greetings,
A survey by Traidcraft found that 77 per cent of people polled said they prefer a handwritten Christmas card over any other kind of communication.
But only three per cent said they would be happy with a Christmas message sent through a social media accounts.
“I love using social media but I think something has been lost in our increasing reliance on it to connect with people,” he said.
“A ‘like’ on Facebook or a retweet will never satiate the most basic of human needs, to feel connected, loved and belonging to a tangible community.
“So why not reach out to someone with a handwritten Christmas card, expressing a genuine, heartfelt sentiment.
“Making the effort and showing someone that you’ve taken the time to think of them is priceless and will really show them that you care this festive season.”