The term the “War on Christmas” was first coined by popular conservative talk show host, Bill O’Reilly, in the early 2000s. Since then, while denied by the liberal media, and many on the left, many figures in right-wing media, and on the American political right still claim that there remains an ongoing war on Christmas.
Many argue that how can there be any kind of “War on Christmas” when the Holiday so dominants all others during the so-called “Holiday Season.”
Despite the modern controversy, there have been several instances throughout history, when there was an actual, and irrefutable – war on Christmas. Here is recount of a few instances where Christmas was banned entirely, or twisted beyond recognition.
The Puritan Parliament of 1647 England banned Christmas altogether. The Puritans had just seized the country from King Charles I. The sect’s central quest was to purge the Church of England of all Catholic influences. They viewed Christmas as a mess of a holiday, full of vice and lacking in scriptural basis. But a lot of their fellow subjects didn’t agree. In fact, according to “The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern English Literature and Religion,” riots broke out in London, Ipswich, and Norwich and other cities. The pro-Christmas residents of Canterbury even took control of their city in defiance of the Puritan leadership. Christmas only officially returned to England though, when Charles II restored the monarchy in 1660.
Those very same Puritans found their way to the New World — you know, the Pilgrims of Thanksgiving fame. The puritanical anti-Christmas seeped over to the American colonies, too — especially New England. The pilgrims notoriously shunned the holiday in 1620 and did not observe it. Nor did the Puritans who arrived in later years. In fact, much to the dismay of the non-Puritans living in New England, observance of the holiday was banned in Boston until 1659.
Christmas Was Not a National Holiday Until the Late 1800s
Even throughout the early days of the United States, the holiday wasn’t a terribly big deal. In urban areas, Christmas was oftentimes marred by violence — often against African Americans and Catholic immigrants — and a lot of drunkenness and debauchery.
The “Christmas spirit” as we know it today only began to take hold in the mid-1800s. It was not until 1870 when President U.S. Grant declared Christmas Day a national holiday.
After the French Revolution
In post-revolutionary France, Christmas was renamed “dog day” to mock the holiday, as the government shut down Catholic churches, drowned priests, and established a national, atheistic substitute: the Cult of Reason.
As you might imagine, the Nazi’s were not that found of Jesus, what with him being born a Jew and all. But instead of doing away with the holiday altogether, the fascist regime twisted the celebration. The Nazis focused on the neo-pagan — and, in their minds, Germanic — origins of the holiday’s traditions. They even rewrote Christmas carols to reflect their ideology.
Fidel Castro was never a fan of Christmas. In 1959, Santa Claus was labeled a symbol of American imperialism in Cuba. Then, in 1969, Castro took it a step further, when he banned Christmas. The reason? He wanted to keep people from getting distracted from the ongoing sugar harvest, according to The Independent.
Modern Day Saudi Arabia
In Saudi Arabia you can get arrested for merely planning a Christmas party. The Lebanese newspaper, Al Ahkbar reported, the country’s religious police arrested 41 people in 2012, who were “plotting to celebrate Christmas.” Saudi Arabia doesn’t recognize any religion other than Islam, despite the fact that about 1.2 million Christians live in the country.
So, is there a “War on Christmas,” today in this country? That may still be a burning question, but there certainly has been a war on Christmas in the past, and one that is still being waged in some places today.