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 primarily American right-wing demagogic neologism referring to secular attempts to keep the December solstice holiday shopping season culturally inclusive. It sets the standard by which all other manufactroversies may be judged. It is most famously fought every year by none other than Bill O'Reilly.
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?
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.
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.
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
- Black Friday
- Boxing Day
- Dianetics Day
- Dies Natalis Solis Invicti
- Dongzhi Festival (Chinese winter solstice festival)
- Eid al-Adha (Islamic New Year)[notes 3]
- Hanukkah[notes 4]
- Holiday (Pastafarianism)
- Inti Raymi
- The Long Night
- Newtonmas, a.k.a: Grav-mass
- New Year's Eve
- New Year's Day (also celebrated on the first of April, by fools)
- The Primary Gifting Period[notes 5]
- Ramadan[notes 6]
- Second Rite of Belial
- Solstice (winter in the northern hemisphere, summer in the southern)
- Thanksgiving (in some places)
- Twelfth Night
- Yule (or Jul)
- Zamenhof Day (yes it's a real thing)[notes 7]
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
- Strings of colored lights
- Last-years' fruit cake, now weaponized, not to be confused with:
- Food, often in extraordinarily large quantities
- Roving gangs of musically-inclined, jovial songsters.
Actual wars on Christmas
In a twist that breaks an irony meter or two, the only 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.
- 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 rather than by public gatherings.
- Even today, some fundamentalists condemn Christmas as a holiday of pagan 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, like 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.
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.
- 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.
- Eid al-Adha has coincided with Christmastime, though, since Islamic holidays are on a lunar calendar, its date progresses backwards through the Gregorian calendar. It is calculated to take places on September 1 in 2017 and on August 21 in 2018, depending on the sighting of the new moon.
- Due to the Hebrew calendar being luni-solar, the date "wanders" through the month of December and sometimes November.
- 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 fallen during the same time of year as Christmas but, like Eid al-Adha, its date progresses backwards through the Gregorian calendar. In 2017, it started on May 27 and ended on June 24. It is expected to start on May 16 and to last until June 14 in 2018, depending on the sighting of the new moon.
- However, some people refer 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
- Who Started the War on Christmas?, The Daily Beast
- Fox betrays Christmas crusade, sells "Holiday" ornaments for your "Holiday tree", Media Matters
- 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.
- 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!!!
- Jeremiah 10 Jeremiah 10
- Lords of Misrule: The Puritan War on Christmas 1642-60, History Today
- 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