What Is The “War On Christmas”?

Christmastime. A festive season for family, food … and warfare?

What does the war on Christmas mean?

Perhaps, you’re familiar with the “War on Christmas” that’s been raging over the last several years. It stems from the radical belief that inclusivity—that honors other holidays, like Hanukkah, and accounts for those who don’t celebrate Christmas—is overshadowing traditional American values. The provocative phrase has been linked to figures like President Donald Trump (remember “[People] don’t use the word Christmas … because it’s not politically correct. Guess what? We’re saying Merry Christmas again!”) and to silly controversies like the drawings printed on Starbucks coffee cups.

Well, according to the Pew Research Center92% of all Americans, regardless of religious background, celebrate Christmas in some form. Judging by numbers alone, it’s hard to believe this popular holiday is under serious threat. Christmas imagery still largely dominates the media and entertainment landscape in the United States.

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Who fired the first Christmas shot?

The sentiment behind this phrase has existed long before Donald Trump or the Starbucks controversy. Interestingly, the Puritans didn’t embrace Christmas. It was just the opposite: they banned it, because it didn’t fit their interpretation of the Bible.

In the 1920s, Henry Ford—a known anti-Semite–distributed a series of pamphlets that claimed to expose the “whole record of Jewish opposition to Christmas” and other Christian holidays like Easter. A spike of religiosity in the ’50s (with church attendance at 50%) ensured that Christian values were included in the curriculum of most public schools. When people spoke out against this incorporation of church and state, they faced severe backlash.

The 1960s civil rights movement led to greater sensitivity toward communities of color and an increased tolerance for religious difference. A series of landmark Supreme Court cases in the 1980s demarcated the line between church and state: for example, in 1980, the court ruled that posting the Ten Commandments on public school property was unconstitutional.

In 2004, conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly revitalized the woeful “War on Christmas” for modern audiences. Although the phrase was apparently coined by author Peter Brimelow, O’Reilly launched it to new heights on his highly rated Fox News program. He also decried the phrase happy holidays, labeling it as anti-Christmas because he said it represented the marginalization of the holiday. Shortly after, another Fox News contributor released a book detailing the supposed “Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday.”

Can’t get enough of controversy? Then read about the Christmas abbreviation that raises eyebrows … but is older than you think.

Who said Starbucks was anti-Christmas?

Enter Starbucks, which releases a series of commemorative cups every year around the holidays. In 2015, the company designed a minimalist all-red cup (actually a mix of cranberry and poppy red), which lacked the usual Christmas symbols: snowflakes, reindeer, Christmas lights, etc. Evangelists and then-presidential candidate Donald Trump criticized the move, which they equated with the actual “removal of Christmas” from the cups.

Now in 2020, the “War on Christmas” has resurfaced as a criticism of COVID-19 restrictions and health department suggestions to avoid gatherings. According to Representative Jim Jordan, “They tried to cancel Thanksgiving. Didn’t work! They’re coming for Christmas next.”

Let’s face it, the holiday season isn’t really about what’s printed on a cup of coffee. It’s not about how someone greets you in a shopping mall, whether that’s with Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. Rather, in this time of such divisiveness, we should all strive to appreciate the common threads found in all winter celebrations: family, friends, food, tradition, and yes—gifts.

Did you know Santa goes by many different names across the globe? Read about a few of his alter egos here.