...The War on Christmas is a little like Santa Claus, in that it (a) comes to us from the sky, beamed down by the satellites of cable news, and (b) does not, in the boringly empirical sense, exist. What does exist is the idea of the War on Christmas, which, though forever new, is a venerable tradition, older even than strip malls and plastic mistletoe. Christmas itself, in something like its recognizably modern form, with gifts and cards and elves, dates from the early nineteenth century. The War on Christmas seems to have come along around a hundred years later, with the publication of “The International Jew,” by Henry Ford, the automobile magnate, whom fate later punished by arranging to have his fortune diverted to the sappy, do-gooder Ford Foundation. “It is not religious tolerance in the midst of religious difference, but religious attack that they”—the Jews—“preach and practice,” he wrote. “The whole record of the Jewish opposition to Christmas, Easter and certain patriotic songs shows that.” Ford’s anti-Semitism has not aged well, thanks to the later excesses of its European adherents, but by drawing a connection between Christmasbashing and patriotism-scorning he pointed the way for future Christmas warriors....UPDATE: really, the last word:
(In 1921, Henry Ford attacked from the opposite flank, sneering that “the strange inconsistency of it all is to see the great department stores of the Levys and the Isaacs and the Goldsteins and the Silvermans filled with brilliant Christmas cheer.”)....
...A Jew married to an Irish Catholic, [Irving] Berlin raised his three daughters as nominal Protestants. Who better to write a non-Christian Christmas song? (Berlin's may have been an extreme case, but in the middle of the 20th century, Jewish assimilationism was so pervasive that it gave rise to the following crack: What's the difference between Reform Jews and Unitarians? Unitarians don't have Christmas trees.)
"White Christmas" was one of a dozen numbers that Berlin wrote for "Holiday Inn," each song commemorating a specific holiday. One hesitates to impute anything so vulgar as a message to a Crosby-Fred Astaire musical, but the message of this musical is that we are all Americans and these are our holidays. Easter belongs to all of us, even if it is about little more than strolling down Fifth Avenue. Christmas belongs to all of us. The religious content of those holidays was fine for Christian believers, but the composer of "God Bless America" preferred to celebrate a common national identity, complete with common holidays that had nonsectarian meanings.
Berlin kept Christmas in the public square and, more than anyone before or since, sent it out over the public airwaves. But it was an American, not a Christian, Christmas. And by the crass index of number of recordings sold, and the not-so-crass index of number of spirits touched, Berlin's nonsectarian holiday has been the predominant version of Christmas in this country for the past 60 years.
Now the Fox News demagogues want to impose a more sectarian Christmas on us, supplanting the distinctly American holiday we have celebrated lo these threescore years with a holiday that divides us along religious lines. Bill O'Reilly can blaspheme all he wants, but like millions of my countrymen, I take attacks on Irving Berlin's America personally. If O'Reilly doesn't like it here, why doesn't he go back to where he came from?