Priest bans Santa and party

PUBLISHED: 16:31 24 December 2008 | UPDATED: 10:14 10 June 2010

PARENTS were left fuming after an Exmouth priest banned a tots Christmas party – saying the festive season does not officially start until December 25.

PARENTS were left fuming after an Exmouth priest banned a tots' Christmas party - saying the festive season does not officially start until December 25.

The Busy Bees parent and toddler group regularly uses a hall at the Church of the Holy Ghost, but was staggered when the priest blocked their party - and barred Santa.

But the town's firefighters came to the rescue and threw a party - complete with Father Christmas - at the fire station.

This week an angry parent of a youngster attending the toddler group hit out at the church's decision to ban the man in the red and white suit, saying it was 'Scrooge-like' and 'not in the spirit of Christmas'.

The angry Brixington parent claims to have been told Santa was not welcome - and the tots were not allowed to hold a 'Christmas' party - because Father Philip Austen considered it was not officially Christmas.

A spokeswoman for the Holy Ghost Catholic Church, Raddenstile Lane, said, according to the church calendar, it was still Advent - and not Christmas.

She said: "We celebrate the liturgical celebrations during the appropriate season.

"It's not Christmas yet, it's still Advent. Obviously the church is not a commercial enterprise. We celebrate Christmas during Christmastide."

The Brixington parent, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals, was 'appalled' by the church's decision when so many other religious groups were throwing festive parties.

The parent said: "It's disgusting. It's a real shame. Those children were looking forward to Christmas.

"I find it really hard to understand, particularly when there are other church groups that have Christmas parties for children. They don't lose the Christmas message."

Busy Bees parent and toddler group founder Teresa Legg said it was the first time in 12 years the group had been told Santa and a Christmas party would not be welcome.

Mrs Legg, who set up the group for parents and children aged up to five, said Exmouth firefighters had pulled out all the stops to make the day special for the youngsters. "The firemen gave a us a lovely party. They couldn't do enough for us and joined in with the fun," she said.

Exmouth fire station group commander Mike White said the youngsters had been visited by Santa and the fire service mascot Blaze Bear - and parents had been given a fire safety message.

He said: "While I appreciate the priest has his views, we could not see the kids go without a party and the chance to meet Santa."

Exmouth Mayor Joy Whipps - who attended the children's party - presented the fire station's Blue Watch with two hampers from the grateful toddler group.

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l See more pictures from the Busy Bees' party online.

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