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The history of the war on Christmas



Santa Claus gun
Christians themselves outlawed the holiday centuries ago.
Kimimasa Mayama/Reuters

• Starting with Bill O’Reilly in the early 2000s, many figures on the American political right have argued that there is an ongoing war on Christmas.

• Observers have questioned the reality of such a conflict, given the holiday’s prominent place in US culture.

• But throughout history, governments and societies — including certain Christian sects — have tried to do away with the festivities.

Every December, Americans take part in a time-honored tradition: letting slip the dogs of the war on Christmas.

Some folks assert that there’s a concerted effort in American society to secularize or erase Christmas, while others call this belief ludicrous. Writing in Politico, Daniel Danvir estimates the most recent iteration of the clash began in 2004, with ousted Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly firing the opening salvo. Since then, “…the War Over Christmas has become tarted up, 24-houred and Twitterized — even as it has grown drearily routine, an annual pageant in which culture warriors line the trenches,” Danvir wrote.

The results? “Xmas” has gotten a bad rep in some circles. US President Donald Trump has shouted about bringing back “Merry Christmas” at rallies, while First Daughter Ivanka Trump stoked controversy by wishing people “Happy Holidays” on Twitter. The Yuletide tension between the First Family notwithstanding, this fearsome fight mostly occurs between pundits — Business Insider’s Mark Abadi reports most people don’t give two sugar plums about your choice of season’s greetings.

But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been so-called wars on Christmas in the past — sometimes waged by Christians themselves.

Here’s a look at historic instances during which Christmas was banned or twisted beyond recognition:

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