Oxford City Council today denied it had banned the word Christmas from its annual festive lights switch-on ceremony.

Councillor Bob Price, Leader of Oxford City Council says: "Oxford City Council has not 'banned Christmas' and has not banned the use of the word 'Christmas'. The council has not even considered doing either of these.

"Oxford City Council will celebrate Christmas 2008 in the same way as it has celebrated all previous Christmases: we will have Christmas trees in the Town Hall and in Broad Street, the Lord Mayor will host a Christmas reception for community workers and will hold the annual Christmas Carols event, and we will be sending out Christmas cards.

"Oxford Inspires, who is jointly funded by Oxford University, Oxford Brookes University, the City and County Councils and the Arts Council to sponsor cultural and arts events across the county, designed the WinterLight event for 2008.

"This builds on the very successful event of December 2007, with the same name, which involved the late night opening of many museums and galleries, with musical events, food and drink, and activities for children.

"For Christmas 2008, Oxford Inspires agreed with the City Council to time the WinterLight event for November and to have it on the same evening as the switch on of the city centre Christmas Lights and the re-opening of Bonn Square.

"Oxford Inspires WinterLight event in Oxford builds on similar events in many cities across the world where the arrival of darker evenings and colder weather creates the opportunity for some magical and exciting events in public buildings and public squares.

"It is a cultural event without any specific reference to the religious festivals that also occur in this period."

A spokesman for Oxford Inspires says: "WinterLight Oxford is part of a wider countywide programme which incorporates Christmas Lights switch on events in towns from Abingdon to Woodstock, Christmas Carol concerts, pantomimes and other seasonal events.

"Other Oxfordshire towns have events which combine their Christmas Lights switch on with other entertainment - such as Woodstock's "Night of a Thousand Candles" on November 29 or Burford's Advent Fair on November 30."