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When Did American Catholics Start Asking to Keep Christ in Christmas?

When Did American Catholics Start Asking to Keep Christ in Christmas?

While the concept to keep Christ in Christmas is not an exclusively Catholic theme it was interesting to discover by using the Catholic News Archive when the slogan started being promoted in earnest by Catholics in the United States. It seems it became a rallying cry after the Second World War. The National Catholic Welfare Conference News Service was the source that was later to become known as Catholic News Service Newsfeeds. They record in December 1949 an editorial entitled “Unholy Fraud” had caught widespread attention. 

Blasting the increasingly secularized celebration of the Christmas holiday, the editorial’s author wrote, ‘this is definitely not meant for those whose idea of the Nativity is fixed on perpetuating the unholy fraud of Santa Claus. It Is meant for those who want to keep Christ In Christmas or at least are willing to give Him back the place He deserves on His birthday,’ and went on to say, ‘For Christians, Christmas without Christ is a blasphemy’ (NCWC News Service # 49-6664, 19 Dec. 1949, p. 113). The Washington Post article mentioned in the newsfeed was published on December 16, 1949 with the title "Santa Now a 'Sugar Daddy,' Not Saint, Catholic Editor Says."

The following November, the Catholic News Service Newsfeeds at the time reported the Archconfraternity of Christian Mothers in Pittsburgh, PA got mass transit ad space donated for a campaign to, “plug the slogan; ‘Keep Christ In Christmas —have a crib under your tree’” (NCWC News Service # 50-6283, 20 Nov. 1950, p. 15). The Archconfraternity of Christian Mothers continued this annual campaign into the 1950s.

In December 1951, at the urging of the Bishop of Toledo, the local deanery of the National Council of Catholic Men started their own campaign which included not only “parish bulletin, newspaper, radio and billboard publicity,” but also “distribution of 5,000 ‘Keep Christ In Christmas’ automobile stickers” (NCWC News Service # 51-7120, 3 Dec. 1951, p. 66). 

Later in the ‘50s local posts of Catholic War Veterans began to recognize commercial spaces appropriately appointed for the season. NCWC News Service (# 52-0033, 7 Jan. 1952, p. 18) first reports the CWV’s “Keep Christ In Christmas” award going to the display in the three-story window of the Sears department store in Baltimore, Maryland.

Blog post written by:
Darren G. Poley
Associate Director of Research Services and Scholarly Engagement
Villanova University



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