For several years now, there have been signs the war on Christmas is running out of ammunition. Google Trends shows a peak in news articles mentioning the Christmas clashes in 2005, after which they slowed to a small annual blip. In 2007 the Springfield, Ill., State Journal-Register remarked that the paper had received hardly any letters about the war on Christmas. “If there still is a War on Christmas going on, its soldiers must have gone underground,” they wrote in a Christmas Eve editorial. Despite occasional flare-ups, like 2010’s “billboard war” between Catholics and atheist groups outside New York City, the battle over the December holidays gradually became the stuff of social-media memes, Onion parodies, and Daily Show takedowns.
How did this cultural flash point slide into oblivion, with Bill O’Reilly virtually the last person continuing to fight? Some Christmas soldiers say it’s because their side won. According to the American Family Association, 80 percent of the retailers the group profiled for its inaugural “naughty and nice” list in 2005 used religion-neutral terminology like “holidays” in their advertising and store signs. Now an overwhelming majority have reverted back to using the word “Christmas.” Randy Sharp, a spokesman for the AFA, says that “there has been a correction.” Retailers, he says, realized “people weren’t offended by being wished a ‘Merry Christmas,’ but those of us who celebrate the historical significance of the birth of Christ are offended when you downplay that.”