The War on Christmas has emerged once again as the right wing's favorite imaginary battle. Bill O'Reilly, the endlessly yammering Sarah Palin, and Fox news have rolled out the old "Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas" fight.
You might be interested to know that the John Birch Society was front and center in manufacturing the whole idea of this war on Christmas.
My parents were John Birch Society members #1 and #2 in Chicago and they'd embraced the new organization with everything they had—including their 13 year old daughter (me).
Here's a snippet from "Moving Up," Chapter 7 of Wrapped in the Flag. This section takes place at the height of the John Birch Society project to stop the summit meeting between President Eisenhower and Soviet premier Nikita Krushchev.
In the fall of 1959, right in the middle of the summit project Mother called me into the dining room. On the table, piles of pamphlet, letters, envelopes, and stamps waited. Mother scurried around checking the supplies. She stopped for a sip of cold tea and looked at me.
"You're on deck," she said.
"The summit?" I asked.
"No," she answered. "Today we're saving Christmas."
"Saving Christmas . . . from what?"
"The United Nations," she told me.
The John Birch Society, she explained, had uncovered a plot to replace the Baby Jesus with an international celebration of brotherhood. Before anyone was the wiser, traditional Christmas ornaments and trees would be replaced with United Nations insignias and flags.
"The Christmas tree at Marshall Fields will be no more," Mother said.
To thwart this assault on our Savior's birthday, the Birch Society had published "There Goes Christmas."
"All the Communist plans are exposed, right here," Mother said, tapping the booklet's cover.
I was put to work on the booklet assembly line and stuffed "There Goes Christmas" into envelopes addressed to a slew of folks. Everyone from our family Christmas-card list to the members of the local country club was sent a copy. By the time the project was over, I swore everyone in Chicago must have received one.
"This is a war on Christmas," Mother said. "You watch. Before long, they'll write it like this: XMAS. That's the clue. They're x-ing Christ out of his own birthday."
The John Birch Society has been fighting this War on Christmas ever since. Now they've enlisted a new generation of Christmas protectors who continue to fuel this annual hysteria. Every December, the usual suspects go crazy about the coming demise of our favorite holiday. You can tell that the forces of evil are winning every time you hear someone shout the evil battle cry, "Happy Holidays."
Claire Conner is the author of Wrapped in the Flag: A Personal History of America's Radical Right. Her father was a national spokesperson for the John Birch Society for more than thirty years; her mother was also a staunch follower. Conner holds a degree in English with honors from the University of Dallas and a graduate degree from the University of Wisconsin. She lives in Tampa, Florida.