A Brief History of the War on Christmas

Last year, my friend Parker Molloy published a pretty comprehensive look at the manufacturing of the fake "War on Christmas" that has driven so much conservative discourse this century. It's at once fascinating, and also incredibly frustrating, when you consider just how effective this repetitive bullshit rage-stoking machine has been.

For 15 years, cable news Don Quixotes have battled these windmills, rejoicing in their victories and basking in their acts of bravery while warning their audiences to remain vigilant. Imaginary culture war issues like the War on Christmas make for good politics, as the people arguing that these are real issues can at any time simply dust off their hands, declare victory, and pat themselves on the back for a job well done. Like Lisa Simpson and her tiger-repelling rock, the protectors of Christmas are simply saving the holiday from nonexistent threats.


With a series of lies, half-truths, and distortions, Fox News and other right-wing media figures have kept the Christmas culture war at the forefront of American politics for 15 years, maintaining a cache of examples they can pull from when they need to distract from an unfavorable news cycle. These stories are almost always framed around the idea that political correctness has gone too far and treat the issues brought up as though they are a development of recent decades.

And then of course, there is the perhaps-unsurprising detail that this fake War on Christmas has — you guessed it! — roots in anti-Semitism:

Claims that Christmas traditions are being threatened date back nearly 100 years, and it's remarkable how little the arguments have changed.

In 1921, industrialist and notorious anti-Semite Henry Ford published a piece decrying the secularization of Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter:

Last Christmas most people had a hard time finding Christmas cards that indicated in any way that Christmas commemorated Someone's Birth. Easter they will have the same difficulty in finding Easter cards that contain any suggestion that Easter commemorates a certain event. There will be rabbits and eggs and spring flowers, but a hint of the Resurrection will be hard to find.

Ford's sentiment is quite similar to that of O'Reilly in 2004:

All over the country, Christmas is taking flak. In Denver this past weekend, no religious floats were permitted in the holiday parade there. In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg unveiled the holiday tree and no Christian Christmas symbols are allowed in the public schools. Federated Department Stores, [that's] Macy's, have done away with the Christmas greeting, "Merry Christmas."

And of course, the 2020 War on Christmas has already begun. But at least this year, you can buy your own Christmas sweater to show your support for the war that never was.

We have always been at war with Eastasia Christmas.

A War on Christmas Story: How Fox News built the dumbest part of America's culture war [Parker Molloy / Media Matters]