War on Christmas
| Some dare call it|
|What THEY don't want|
you to know!
|—H. P. Lovecraft|
The so-called "War on Christmas" (or, less sensationally, the Christmas controversy) is a right-wing demagogic neologism referring to real or imagined secularist attempts to keep the December solstice holiday shopping season culturally inclusive. It sets the standard by which all other manufactroversies may be judged, and is most famously hawked every year by none other than now-former Fox News Channel contributor Bill O'Reilly.
- 1 Origins
- 2 "They ain't makin' Jews like Jesus anymore…"
- 3 More recently
- 4 Not like it used to be?
- 5 So what's a war without war profiteers?
- 6 They've messed our economy
- 7 The War in politics
- 8 "Happy Holidays" may also refer to…
- 9 Weapons used in the war
- 10 Actual wars on Christmas
- 11 Actual peace on Christmas
- 12 Easter: The next battlefield
- 13 See also
- 14 External links
- 15 Notes
- 16 References
Few people, even among those who promote this idea, know that its modern-day form started out as a conspiracy theory promulgated by groups affiliated with the John Birch Society. In 1959, they released a pamphlet called "There Goes Christmas", in which they claimed that there was a new communist plot to "take the Christ out of Christmas" by replacing Christmas decorations with United Nations iconography. The Society claimed this formed part of a larger push to stamp out religion altogether and to cede US sovereignty to the UN. They urged members to boycott any stores with "inappropriate decorations".
The JBS itself had developed the idea of a War on Christmas from inter-war anti-Semitic publications, particularly from Henry Ford's The International Jew. Detecting a part of a supposed move to take over the world, the JBS claimed that Jews were launching a "war on Christianity", with one paper lamenting, "Last Christmas most people had a hard time finding Christmas cards that indicated in any way that Christmas commemorated Someone's Birth." This was (of course) seen as a plot by Jewish conspirators who "consider any public expression of Christian character as being derogatory to [their] religion." Sound familiar?
"They ain't makin' Jews like Jesus anymore…"
- "Baby, It's Cold Outside" by Frank Loesser
- "The Christmas Song" ("Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire") by Mel Tormé and Bob Wells
- "The Christmas Waltz" by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne
- "Happy Holiday" by Irving Berlin
- "A Holly Jolly Christmas" by Johnny Marks
- "Home for the Holidays" by Robert Allen and Al Stillman
- "I'll Be Home for Christmas" by Buck Ram and Walter Kent
- "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" by Edward Pola and George Wyle
- "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" by Irving Berlin
- "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow" by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne
- "A Marshmallow World", lyrics by Carl Sigman
- "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers" by Leon Jessel
- "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" by Johnny Marks
- "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" by Johnny Marks
- "Santa Baby" by Joan Javits and Philip Springer
- "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town", music by J. Fred Coots
- "Silver Bells" by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans
- "Sleigh Ride", lyrics by Mitchell Parrish
- "We Need a Little Christmas" by Jerry Herman
- "White Christmas" by Irving Berlin
- "Winter Wonderland", music by Felix Bernard
- "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch", music by Albert Hague (lyrics by the gentile Dr. Seuss)
But, there again, because these tunes focus on the nonreligious aspects of Christmas, this fact is sometimes put forward as "evidence" of a fiendish Jewish plot to secularize the holiday. Oh, heck! Let's all just sing Christmas songs around the Hanukkah bush!
The "War on Christmas" meme was revived in the 1990s by paleoconservative, VDARE founder, white nationalist, anti-Semite, and all-around wingnut Peter Brimelow, as part of a larger battle against multiculturalism.
But no individual is more responsible for dragging the concept from the right-wing fringe into "mainstream" media culture, and making it an annual tradition as reliable and inevitable as the holiday season itself, than Bill O'Reilly, who is apparently horrified — yes, horrified! — that Wal-Mart greeters might wish that shoppers enjoy "Happy Holidays" — despite the fact that his own website sold "holiday ornaments" rather than X-Mas ornaments. Did anyone mention hypocrisy?
The fact that "Happy Holidays" refers to over a dozen holidays (see below) never seems to have any real effect on the demagoguery; neither does the idea that Christmas itself was first made by blatantly ripping off a pagan holiday (let's hear it for the War on Yule!) or that puritanical types have made a few wars against Christmas themselves (see below). So, the Religious Right keeps yammering about it and secularists keep making jokes about going along with it.[notes 1] As the years go by, the semi-ironic "Merry Christmas" greeting is gaining ground, used by some as a kind of meta-statement on the ongoing controversy. (It should be acknowledged that there are, in fact, some people in the social justice community who do object to "Merry Christmas" and even "Happy Holidays" as expressions of Christian cultural imperialism in the West. Whether one agrees with their stance or not, however, said people are nowhere close in either number or influence to being the Christmas-destroying juggernaut of conservatives' fevered imaginations.)
Despite the best efforts of the sinister anti-Christmas warriors, the proportion of American Christians who feel a religious meaning in Christmas is increasing, though religious belief is generally declining in the US. This suggests the unstated premise that the meaning of Christmas rests upon people using the word to sell merchandise is not correct.
In 2016, President-elect Donald Trump declared an end to the War on Christmas, basically by declaring war on everyone who didn't say "Merry Christmas". Trump himself, oddly enough, had previously waged war on Christmas when his management company banned Christmas trees from the lobby of one of his apartment houses in 1981.
Not like it used to be?
Many right-wingers misrepresent the history of Christian celebrations, in an attempt to claim that Christmas in the past was all about religion but now it's purely secular and no mention of Jesus — for example in 2017 there were claims that Australian schools were "trying to take pictures of Jesus out of Christmas cards". As well as being completely made up, this ignores the fact that the first Christmas card ever made had no mention of Christ, the nativity, God, angels or anything religious. Designed by John Callcott Horsley in 1843, it featured a scene of people drinking wine, including a mother feeding it to her young child, with generic scenes of charity at either side. Most of Christmas tradition was invented in the 19th century, by people such as Charles Dickens; his novella A Christmas Carol focuses on Christmas as a time for charity and spending time with loved ones rather than emphasising the Christmas message, and largely secular Victorian traditions like roast dinners (also popularised in A Christmas Carol), trees, and cards show the lack of religious significance.
So what's a war without war profiteers?
The American Family Association (AFA) issues a yearly list of
nationwide retail outlets often owned by huge, multinational corporations companies that they say are "for," "marginal on," or "against" Christmas. Supposedly the "for Christmas" companies use the word "Christmas" instead of "Xmas" (which is highly amusing, since the "X" in "Xmas" is not a placeholder to "cross out" Christ, but the Greek letter chi (χ), which is the first letter of "Christ" in Greek; it's an abbreviation invented by Christians and used for centuries) or "Holiday" in their advertising, while the "against Christmas" companies do not. Of course, the AFA doesn't seem to notice that many of the companies on the "for Christmas" list often substitute "Holiday" for "Christmas" in their ads, or minimize the number of references to the holidays altogether. This has led to speculation by godless, gay, pinko-commies critics that maybe the AFA receives compensation for inclusion on the "for Christmas" list, a claim that the AFA denies.
They've messed our economy
In 2008, the ante was raised as a columnist blamed the year's economic crisis on the War on Christmas. In true Wall Street Journal op-ed style, Daniel Henninger said that the push against Christmas is leading us to a "Mad Max" type environment.
The War in politics
In 2007, even some of the Presidential candidates took up the war, with Mike Huckabee claiming that it might be "controversial," but he was going to wish the gathered Iowa Republicans a "Merry Christmas". This was intensified in 2015-16 under Donald Trump.[notes 2]
"Happy Holidays" may also refer to…
- Alban Arthuan
- Baxter Day[notes 3]
- Black Friday
- Buy Nothing Day
- Boxing Day
- Cave Christmas[notes 4]
- Chinese New Year (occasionally)
- Constitution Day[notes 5]
- The Crystal Feast[notes 6]
- Cyber Monday
- Dianetics Day
- Dies Natalis Solis Invicti
- Dongzhi Festival (Chinese winter solstice festival)
- Eastern Orthodox Christmas (observed on January 7)
- Eid al-Adha (Islamic New Year)[notes 7]
- The Feast of Frith[notes 8]
- Freeza Day (or Frieza Day)
- Hanukkah[notes 9]
- Hearth's Warming Eve
- Holiday (Pastafarianism)
- Inti Raymi
- The Kongo Bongo Festival of Lights[notes 10]
- Life Day
- The Long Night
- Monkey Day 
- Newtonmas, a.k.a: Grav-mass
- New Year's Eve
- New Year's Day (also celebrated on the first of April, by fools)
- Nickmas[notes 11]
- The Primary Gifting Period[notes 12]
- Ramadan[notes 13]
- Saint Stephen's Day
- Second Rite of Belial
- Solstice (winter in the northern hemisphere, summer in the southern)
- Starlight Night[notes 14]
- Thanksgiving (in some places)
- Twelfth Night
- Yule (or Jul)
- Zamenhof Day (yes it's a real thing)[notes 15]
Weapons used in the war
- Yule logs
- Gift exchanges
- Decorated evergreen trees (these are unbiblical)
- Magical reindeer
- Plastic, life-size Santas
- Flesh and blood, alcoholic Santas (SantaCon)
- Strings of colored lights
- Last-years' fruitcake, now weaponized, not to be confused with:
- Food, often in extraordinarily large quantities
- Roving gangs of musically-inclined, jovial songsters
- Christmas tree fires
- Eggnog, also weaponized
Actual wars on Christmas
In a twist that breaks an irony meter or two, many of the times that a war has actually been declared on Christmas, it was Christians who were the ones warring against it.
- In England, the Puritan government of Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas celebrations. This led to pro-Christmas rioting in several cities, in which rioters defied Cromwell by decking the halls with boughs of holly.
- Scotland with its strong Calvinist tradition ignored or minimised Christmas. Although it was popular before the 1560 Protestant Reformation, the celebration was banned by law in 1640, partly repealed in 1686, and then banned again in 1690 (when the more Protestant King William came to the throne), until 1712. New Year (which has no religious significance) was the big winter holiday, while the Church of Scotland didn't consider Christmas to be important, and Christmas wasn't even a day off work until 1958.
- In Massachusetts, Christmas was completely banned for 22 years, from 1659 until 1681, only being legalized again when King James II appointed an Anglican governor to the colony who could rule by decree. Christmas did not become popular there until the 1850s.
- George Washington's famous crossing of the Delaware took place on the night of December 25, 1776, with the hope of catching the Hessian soldiers garrisoned in Trenton, New Jersey off guard in the morning as they were still in bed nursing hangovers. Presumably the Continental forces weren't celebrating Christmas as they were busy loading boats. After the Revolutionary War, celebrating Christmas fell out of style in the US as "too British".
- Observation of Christmas in the British Isles was in decline during the later-18th and early-19th century. Christmas had fallen under a cloud of official public disfavor as a result of the Industrial Revolution, along with most other festivals that had the potential to encourage public gatherings of the lower classes for alcohol-fueled revelry. The factory owning classes found this threatening. It took Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol to revive the holiday, which as the story suggests was being increasingly neglected by the capitalist class; and it did so by promoting a new style of family-centered observance as opposed to mass public gatherings.
- Even today, some fundamentalists condemn Christmas, not entirely inaccurately, as an unbiblical holiday of pagan (and/or papist) origin. The Jehovah's Witnesses and Herbert W. Armstrong are well known for this. Less well-known, Jack Chick states that Christians are not supposed to celebrate Christ's birth in at least one of his comic books, and argues that teaching children about Santa Claus will lead to them rejecting Christ once they realize Santa is a fairy tale. Other fundamentalist types, such as the Independent Baptists and Pentecostals, tend to de-emphasize the celebration of Christmas relative to mainline churches when they don't reject it outright. Some Christian fundamentalists have also been known to picket Santa Claus in malls (or even to point out that Santa is an anagram of Satan), refer to Christmas trees as "Baal bushes", and the like.
- In November 2018 a religious education teacher in Pickering, North Yorkshire, UK, declared that their school was banning Christmas because the holiday was too commercialised and not sufficiently focused on Jesus. The ban was later reversed, but may have been a stunt to get the kids to think more deeply about baby Jesus in the manger. In any case it was another instance of Christians (temporarily) banning Christmas.
Actual peace on Christmas
The Christmas Truce of 1914 was a relatively widespread phenomenon that occurred in the trenches of World War One. However the high commands of all sides involved quickly quashed this display of brotherly love, adding another brief page to the War on Christmas.
Easter: The next battlefield
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, many statewide social-distancing orders orders against public gatherings, some churches have resisted having internet church services in favor of in-person services, declaring a "war on Easter". Reverend Rodney Howard-Browne of Florida was arrested for unlawful assembly. Howard-Browne's previous claim to fame was giving away AR-15 assault rifles at his church and encouraging congregants to bring their guns to church. Pastor Tony Spell of Louisiana was also charged with misdemeanors for holding an in-person church gathering.
- Freedom From Religion Foundation
- Moral panic
- Conservative correctness
- War on Science
- Kirk Cameron, specifically his awful film Saving Christmas which did very well at the 2014 Razzie Awards
- War on Christmas Official Dispatches Aggregated headlines and satirical rebuttals
- Wingnuts vs. ACLU debate
- Faux News has an interactive map showing the "battles" in the WoC.
- Controversy over public religious Christmas displays in America is fueled by differing beliefs regarding Christmas and American history, London School of Economics
- "The War on Christmas, or How to Build Mass Support for Right Wing Ideology" An article that traces the intellectual roots of the war on Christmas in the conservative movement.
- When, in fact, most secularists really don't mind "Merry Christmas"; as a general rule it's mostly just a few butthurt egotists who complain every year.
- For example, President-elect Donald Trump suggested boycotting Starbucks over their private decision to change the style of their Christmas cups (so much for small government!). Hey, there's even been a song written about Trump's love for Christmas.
- A holiday celebrated by Buster and his mom on Arthur.
- From the episode, "The Night Before Cave Christmas" in the Super Mario World animated series. It's celebrated in the middle of August, however.
- Taiwan's Constitution Day is celebrated on December 25, this is because the first president of Taiwan, Chiang Kai-shek, was Christian and wanted an excuse to make Christmas a public holiday in a predominantly Buddhist/Taoist society.
- Brought up in one line from the Doctor Who episode "A Christmas Carol"
- Eid al-Adha has coincided with Christmas, though, since Islamic holidays are on a lunar calendar, its date progresses backwards through the Gregorian calendar. Depending on the sighting of the new moon, it is expected to start on the evening of July 30 and end on the evening of August 3 in 2020, to start on the evening of July 19 and end on the evening of July 20 in 2021 and to start on the evening of July 9 and end on the evening of July 13 in 2022.
- Celebrated in an animated adaptation of Watership Down, and not in the original book.
- Due to the Hebrew calendar being luni-solar, the date "wanders" through the month of December and sometimes November.
- Celebrated in an episode of Donkey Kong Country.
- What Nickelodeon called Christmas in 2002 to get around this whole shitstorm.
- This is UK retailer-speak for the period ending closing time on 24 December, starting at an indeterminate point in time which seems to be getting earlier with each successive year. You can identify when a store is in "PGP layout" by referring to the "Seasonal" aisle. PGP layout begins when the store's Seasonal section makes the first of two switches to Christmas paraphernalia — the second switch is a return to Christmas goods after Halloween. Until Bill Bailey popularised the term, it was considered jargon, but is now proof positive of "Political correctness gone mad!!!!" with four exclamation marks and everything.
- The Islamic holy month of Ramadan has coincided with Christmastime but, like Eid al-Adha, its date progresses backwards through the Gregorian calendar. In 2020, it started on the evening of April 23 and ended on the evening of May 23. Depending on the sighting of the new moon, it is expected to last from the evening of April 12 until the evening of May 11 in 2021 and to last from the evening of April 2 until the evening of May 1 in 2022.
- Celebrated by robo-penguins in an episode of Cyberchase. That's right, Baxter Day isn't the only holiday from a PBS show listed here.
- However, some people prefer to call it "Esperanta Literatura Tago" or Esperanto Literature Day
- H. P. Lovecraft's "The Festival" on Wikisource
- See the Wikipedia article on Christmas controversies.
- A Short History of the War on Christmas, Politico
- Why Were So Many Beloved Christmas Songs Written By Jewish Musicians? by Lauren Markoe (2/14/2014 08:05 am ET Updated Dec 14, 2014) Huffington Post.
- A Jewish Christmas Soundtrack: The top 10 Christmas songs written by Jews, from 'Silver Bells' to 'Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow' by Marc Tracy (December 24, 2012 • 7:00 AM) Tablet.
- James G. Bruen, Jr., "White Christmas Subversion", Culture Wars, December 2010
- Who Started the War on Christmas?, The Daily Beast
- Fox betrays Christmas crusade, sells "Holiday" ornaments for your "Holiday tree", Media Matters
- December and Christian Cultural Imperialism, The Good Men Project.
- Jeffrey M. Jones (December 24, 2010) "Christmas Strongly Religious for Half in U.S. Who Celebrate It". Gallup.
- Trump: 'We're going to start saying Merry Christmas again' by Amy Graff (Updated 10:13 am, Tuesday, December 13, 2016) San Francisco Chronicle.
- When Trump forbade a Christmas tree — and other forgotten stories from the ‘war on Christmas’ by Avi Selk (December 25, 2017 at 3:50 PM), The Washington Post.
- Schools Take Major Step to Ban Any, All References to Jesus—Including Christmas Cards, Charisma News, 28 July 2017
- Christmas card
- The History of the Christmas Card, Smithsonian Magazine, 9 Dec 2015
- The Man Who Invented Christmas, Les Standiford
- AFA Expands "Christmas" Hit List (2009), Joe.My.God.
- Disinformation website (disinfo.com) page on the AFA's 2011 list, with commentary. (Notice whose online store tops the "for Christmas" list.)
- Near the end of this YouTube video, AFA spokesman Bryan Fischer denies to Thom Hartmann that corporations pay to get on the "for Christmas" list. (However, the best part of the video comes at the very end when Hartmann calls Fischer a "blasphemer" for his right-wing take on the Parable of the Talents.)
- "Wonder Land: Mad Max and the Meltdown", WSJ
- "A Merry Christmas for Huckabee", The Weekly Standard. Oh noes!!!
- DragonBall Z Abridged Special: Plan to Eradicate Christmas Team Four Star Wiki
- Official HumanLight website
- "This Day in Geographic History: December 14, 2000: Monkey Day", National Geographic
- Jeremiah 10 Jeremiah 10
- Lords of Misrule: The Puritan War on Christmas 1642-60, History Today
- See the Wikipedia article on Christmas in Scotland.
- "Christmas and New Year traditions in Scotland", Scotsman, 24 December 2013
- Nissenbaum, Stephen (1996). The Battle for Christmas. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-679-41223-9.
- Andrews, Peter (1975). Christmas in Colonial and Early America. USA: World Book Encyclopedia, Inc. ISBN 0-716-62001-4.
- Hutton, Ronald (1996). The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain. London: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-198-20570-8.
- Fairy Tales? by Jack Chick
- Christmas cheer at Lady Lumley's School after ban lifted, BBC, 5 December 2018
- How the war on Christmas became the war on Easter by Shane Claiborne (April 4, 2020) Religion News.