The Extremists Roots of the ‘War on Christmas’

The Extremists Roots of the ‘War on Christmas’ December 5, 2011

As one who has long laughed heartily at the notion of a War on Christmas, I was fascinated to see this blog post about the origins of the whole thing. Turns out it started among paranoid and racist far right groups like the John Birch Society. Color me unsurprised.

In 1959, the John Birch Society, a far-right organization that sees anti-American and communist conspiracies in just about everything, released a pamphlet called “There Goes Christmas!” written by Hubert Kregeloh.  The pamphlet claimed, “One of the techniques now being applied by the Reds to weaken the pillar of religion in our country is the drive to take Christ out of Christmas — to denude the event of its religious meaning.”  The John Birch Society believed the UN was being used to crush religious belief:

The UN fanatics launched their assault on Christmas in 1958, but too late to get very far before the holy day was at hand.  They are already busy, however, at this very moment, on efforts to poison the 1959 Christmas season with their high-pressure propaganda.  What they now want to put over on the American people is simply this:  Department stores throughout the country are to utilize UN symbols and emblems as Christmas decorations.

These “UN symbols and emblems” were simply secular Christmas decorations that did not employ religious imagery, decorations that had been around for some time.  The pamphlet claimed this was a plot to destroy Christianity and called on patriotic Americans to boycott any stores that displayed such decorations.  No one took this very seriously in 1959 — this was, after all, the John Birch Society.  The conspiracy theory did not catch on.  But it was to come back a few decades later.

In the 1990s, Peter Brimelow, a British American financial journalist, was an editor atFortune magazine when he decided he didn’t like the phrase “happy holidays.”  He told theDaily Beast, “I just got real interested in the issue because I noticed over the years there was this social shift taking place where people no longer said ‘Merry Christmas.’”  In his book Alien Nation, Brimelow wrote that “weird aliens with dubious habits” were damaging the “ethnic core” of white Christian America and were part of a “multicultural struggle to abolish America.”  He saw the trend toward saying “happy holidays” as part of this sinister movement and decided to do something about it.

Brimelow and conservative British political journalist John O’Sullivan, who was then editor of the conservative magazine National Review, had an idea:  A yearly competition in the magazine for the “the most egregious attempt to suppress Christmas.”  But before O’Sullivan could implement the idea, he was booted from his position as editor in 1997.  Even the staunch conservatives at the National Review wanted nothing to do with Brimelow and O’Sullivan and their increasingly hostile attitudes toward racial minorities and immigrants.  So Brimelow founded VDare, an anti-immigration online journal which the Southern Poverty Law Center categorized as a “hate journal” in 2003.  VDare became the home of Brimelow’s “Annual War on Christmas Competition.”

The winner of the competition in 2001 was Tom Piatak’s article “Happy Holidays?  Bah!  Humbug!”.  In the article, Tom Piatak writes that today’s celebration of Christmas in America bears a “closer resemblance to the Nazis’ Julfest” than the Christmases of old, like those celebrated during Piatak’s childhood.  He specifically targets other holidays and religions as the source of the problem:

Teaching children about Kwanzaa, rather than about the Christmas carols and spirituals developed by blacks, inculcates negative lessons about whites instead of positive ones about blacks.  Teaching children about Hanukkah, rather than the beliefs that actually sustained Jews on their sometimes tragic and tumultuous historical journey, inculcates negative lessons about Christianity, not positive ones about Judaism.

VDare’s 2005 winner, “Christmas, Jews, De-Assimilation and Decline” by Steve Sailer, is much more specific.  Sailer is a writer who has, in the past, shown enthusiasm for Eugenics and believes black people to be inferior.  In a 2005 article for Vdare called “Racial Reality and the New Orleans Nightmare,” he wrote of black people, “The plain fact is that they tend to possess poorer native judgment than members of better-educated groups. Thus they need stricter moral guidance from society.”  In his competition-winning article about the “war on Christmas,” Sailer complains that, although Jews wrote many of today’s most popular Christmas songs, those songs were secular, and these days, they aren’t even doing that, because rather than being grateful for the piles of money they’ve been able to make off of Christianity, all they want to do is destroy the Christian tradition of Christmas.

With just a little research, it becomes very clear that the roots of today’s “war on Christmas” are deeply imbedded in the soil of racial hatred and religious bigotry.  The people responsible for pointing out this “war” and making the most noise about it in the 1990s were white supremacists and anti-Semites.

And now it’s promoted mostly by religious hucksters out to make a buck and keep the donations flowing in.

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • The old negroes and the Jews chestnut, huh? In the 2000s?

    Couldn’t they work the swarthy Muslim hordes in somewhere? And I’m sure the atheists and gheys are feeling left out of this Christmas spirit as well.

    Overall, those efforts barely deserve a “C.” Needs moar hate.

  • lofgren

    The war on Christmas has been going on since 1958? Apparently it’s about as effective as the war on drugs and the war on poverty.

  • matty1

    I’m thinking of declaring war on wars on things that are not actual military enemies.

    Also if it is this John O’Sullivan the fact that he was born in Liverpool and now lives in Alabama should disqualify him from saying anything against international migration.

  • cainch

    Teaching children about Hanukkah, rather than the beliefs that actually sustained Jews on their sometimes tragic and tumultuous historical journey blah blah blah


  • rork

    I actually am pretty tired of nativity scenes on the public square of my neighboring little village (with a snowflake or two to make it maybe-legal) and the avalanche of other religious messages, like people sending me cards about the blessings of Jesus, and my company giving me “season days” off after the equinox rather than in the early bow season – what were they thinking?

  • The John Birch Society’s role in this “War on Christmas” kerfuffle is old news to me, but it’s still something worth repeating.

  • Cuttlefish

    How do I enter that contest? Want!

  • tubi

    How do I enter that contest? Want!

    That’s not a bad idea. How easy would it be to Sokal (that’s a verb now, right) those idiots? Just talk about the darkies and the queers enough and I’m sure they’ll run with it.

  • lofgren

    But what would you do once you won? Would you come forward and say “HAHA! This essay is actually entirely fabricated, relying on zero evidence or research!” What difference would that make? If VDare stuck to well researched essays supported by facts, they wouldn’t have anything to print at all.

  • vmanis1

    The only thing to do with these miscreants is to wish them Happy Holidays and leave it at that.

  • bad Jim

    Of course, the Puritans started the war on Christmas after the English Civil War, banning it throughout Great Britain. They thought it was idolatrous and were suspicious of its pagan roots. In 1776 Washington’s army demonstrated their reverence for the holiday by moving into position for a sneak attack on Trenton, which was weakly defended by hungover Hessians.

    Its renewed popularity in the United States was in part due to Irish immigration, and around the same time Queen Victoria’s German consort introduced the Christmas tree to the English-speaking peoples.