The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams has criticised efforts across the UK to turn Christmas into a secular celebration by banning carol singing and Nativity plays in some schools.
Dr Williams writes in the Radio Times: "Christmas is one of the great European exports. You'll meet Santa Claus and his reindeer in Shanghai and Dar es Salaam - a long way from the North Pole.
"More seriously, the story of the Nativity is loved even in non-Christian contexts."
He said: "The weary annual attempts by right-thinking people in Britain to ban or discourage Nativity plays or public carol-singing out of sensitivity to the supposed tender consciences of other religions fail to notice that most people of other religions and cultures both love the story and respect the message."
Dr Williams said that the "story of defenceless love - even when wrapped up in all the bizarre fancy dress of Christmas as it's developed over the centuries - touches something universal".
He said that "one of the best and most sensitive recent film re-tellings" of the Nativity story had been made by an Iranian Muslim company.
Dr Williams, who recently blessed hotel kitchen staff in India before they mixed Christmas cake batter, added that the Nativity story "says something is happening that will break boundaries and cross frontiers ... there is something here that draws strangers together."