The word came to prominence in 1998 when Birmingham City Council in the United Kingdom used it as a title to encompass the three month collection of multi-faith and secular events, running from October to January, and including Diwali, bonfire night, the new year and other seasonal events as well as Christmas itself.
Elements of the popular press, spurred on by the then Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Rev Mark Santer attempted to portray it as an attempt to give the Christmas festivities a politically correct flavour. The bishop stated:
- "I wonder what madness is in store for us this Christmas? I confess I laughed out loud when our city council came out with Winterval as a way of not talking about Christmas. No doubt it was a well-meaning attempt not to offend, not to exclude, not to say anything at all".
However, the council's response was:
- "Birmingham City Council wants people to celebrate Christmas. Christmas is the very heart of Winterval; far from not talking about Christmas the events within Winterval and the publicity material for it are covered in Christmas greetings and traditional images, including angels and carol singers".
The council had drawn particular attention to the city's Anglican cathedral during the festival by placing Christmas lights in the trees around the building, and the greeting "Happy Christmas Birmingham" hung in large lights over the main entrance to the Council House as it had done in every other year.