The dark origins of the ‘War on Christmas’

Most reasonable people know that the so-called war on Christmas treat is a joke and make fun on it. But Joshua Holland writes about the history of this idea, that it has dark roots in the early twentieth century that then went dormant until Fox News reintroduced it and mainstreamed it.

Now, the war on Christmas wasn’t always a joke. According to journalist Daniel Denvir, it was first created by anti-Semites in the 1920s as a way of attacking what they saw as an international Jewish conspiracy. Then it was briefly brought back to life in the mid-1950s by the far-right John Birch Society, which posited that the United Nations was targeting Christmas to advance the cause of global communism.

It then lay dormant until around 2004, when Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and a handful of Christian conservatives created the war on Christmas that we know today. They spun corporate America’s profit-driven tendency to wish consumers an inclusive “happy holidays” into a plot by godless liberals to banish Christianity from our holy shopping malls.

Oddly enough, these efforts have had the opposite effect of what the Christian conservative warriors intended.

And the irony is that ordinary people who wouldn’t think twice about offering a cheery “merry Christmas” just a few years ago are now hesitant to do so for fear of offending people who would never have even thought to take offense.

When she was asked why one of their Christmas-themed drink specials had been renamed, a bored looking bartender in a Black Sabbath t-shirt gave a shrug and said, “political correctness, I guess.” This followed a well-meaning clerk at a local grocery store asking me what holiday I celebrated so she could offer me the appropriate salutation.

So mission accomplished, religious conservatives. You’ve successfully politicized a benign holiday greeting that secular humanists and atheists and Jews and Muslims and Zoroastrians used to happily exchange without a second thought. You got your war on Christmas. Now have a happy damn holiday.

war on christmas


  1. says

    I’ve said this a few places before so sorry if you’ve seen it before, but if you insist on saying just “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays” then you are participating in the War on New Year’s.

  2. brucegee1962 says

    I think there’s a bit more to it than this. Back in the 60s and 70s, I think there were many school districts around the country who wouldn’t have thought twice about a chorus teacher who assigned all the kids in class to sing songs about the baby J. The Jewish kids who didn’t like it would be cordially invited to stay home that week. Nowadays, of course, there are still districts like that out there, but probably considerably fewer. And then there are battlefields like the townhall creche displays, where we are winning. So to that extent, you can see why some Christians are feeling beleaguered.

    However, they didn’t really want to fight the battle on either of those two battlefields, because insisting on government promotion of religion might sound a bit, oh, unconstitutional, and of course they’re the constitution’s bestest fans. So somebody had the brilliant idea of picking on the merchants, who were simply trying to do their best not to offend anybody. Because who’s going to want to stick up for a bunch of soulless merchants, who were already defiling the Holy Holiday just to make a buck? Let’s just stick them in a position where, no matter what sign they put up, they’re going to offend somebody, right?

  3. StevoR says

    Meanwhile in Iraq :

    With Christmas falling this year a day after Prophet Mohammad’s birthday, the city of Baghdad is holding Christmas celebrations in a sign of brotherhood with Iraq’s hard-pressed Christian community.

    Fireworks will illuminate the Tigris river every night of the week and a 25-metre Christmas tree has been set up in Zawraa public park.

    In Zayuna camp, in the east of the city, children listened to Christmas carols and danced with Santa Claus to Iraqi songs.

    Wonder what they do for Hannukah? Kwanza too?

  4. John Morales says

    StevoR, pandering to Christmas as a religious gesture is every bit as bad as railing at it as a non-religious gesture.


    (My view on Christmas: it’s a paid holiday. Just like the Queen’s Birthday or Boxing Day. Care to opine about how good or bad is Iraq or Brunei not following/forbidding those?)

  5. laurentweppe says

    (My view on Christmas: it’s a paid holiday. Just like the Queen’s Birthday or Boxing Day. Care to opine about how good or bad is Iraq or Brunei not following/forbidding those?)

    A given holiday not followed somewhere else? I Don’t give a shit
    An autocracy forbidding people to celebrate: now I worry.

  6. John Morales says


    An autocracy forbidding people to celebrate: now I worry.


    Notably, Xmas is a big, big thing in both Japan and China… neither of which is Christian.

  7. says

    I used to always say, “Merry Christmas,” but now I hesitate because it so often is used aggressively; “I say, ‘Christmas’: deal with it, miserable sinner!”

    I thought “Feliz Navidad” would work, until someone used that on me, angrily.

    Now what? “Joyeux Noël”? At least it’s Canadian.

  8. Die Anyway says

    Well, it’s December 26, Christmas is over and an 11 month truce has been declared. But come December 1st, 2016 I’ll gladly resume my role as a War-on-Christmas Warrior.

  9. StevoR says

    @7. laurentweppe :

    A given holiday not followed somewhere else? I Don’t give a shit
    An autocracy forbidding people to celebrate: now I worry.

    Agreed 100%. That so much.

    Also the war on Xmas seems to have been originally inspired by anti-Semitism :

    as Ed Brayton explains there. Seems it was started by Henry Ford who was also an admirer of Hitler’s and anti-Semite.


    “Adolf Hitler kept a framed photograph of Henry Ford on his desk and Ford kept one of Hitler on his desk in Dearborn, Michigan. Hitler had used in Mein Kampf some of Ford’s anti-Semitic views, and he always welcomed Ford’s substantial contributions to the Nazi movement.”

    (Italics original.)

    Source : Page 219, ‘Isaac Asimov’s Book of Facts’, Asimov, Isaac, Grosset & Dunlap, 1979.

    Incidentally, thinking of another thread here (‘The Wealthy Poor’) the same source notes on page 176 that “No one went hungry or unclothed under the benevolent dictatorship of the Inca empire.” OTOH, they did practice human sacrifice and conquered a lot of other groups by force so, yeah, there’s that.

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