Councils should promote Christmas as a Christian festival and consign phrases like Winterval to “the dustbin of history”, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has insisted.

Mr Pickles resurrected controversy over Birmingham City Council’s use of the name Winterval to market a range of events including Christmas celebrations, Diwali events, Children in Need and New Year’s Eve.

But he came under fire from city MP Steve McCabe, who asked why the Secretary of State was stirring up a controversy from 12 years ago.

Birmingham City Council used the phrase Winterval in 1998 and was condemned by the Bishop of Birmingham at the time, the Rt Rev Mark Santer, who claimed that Winterval was “a way of not talking about Christmas”.

Winterval was portrayed as an example of politically-correct local authorities down-playing Christmas, even though Birmingham City Council continued to use traditional Christian images such as angels in its publicity material, and to promote events such as a Christmas carol concert.

Mr Pickles has issued a statement urging councils to celebrate Christmas as a specifically Christian festival. As well as Winterval, he highlighted “Luminous”, the name used for a light show in Luton, Bedfordshire.

He said: “We should actively celebrate the Christian basis of Christmas, and not allow politically correct Grinches to marginalise Christianity and the importance of the birth of Christ.

“The war on Christmas is over, and likes of Winterval, Winter Lights and Luminous deserve to be in the dustbin of history.

“We live in tough financial times, but there’s no need for town halls to play Scrooge. It is in councils’ financial interests to draw in shoppers to their town centres at Christmas given the benefits of packed car parks to councils’ coffers. Shoppers want to see Christmas lights, Christmas trees, Carol Services and nativity scenes, and councils should not hesitate in supporting them.”

Mr McCabe (Lab Selly Oak) said: “I would have thought that with the challenges facing local government at the moment, he would have better things to do than to revive a 12-year-old press release.”

A Birmingham City Council spokesman said: “This year, as in every other year, we have Christmas lights, a nativity scene and all sorts of Christmas events.”