I hate to be the one to break it to Bill O’Reilly’s “War on Xmas” Fan Club but the phrase “Happy Holidays” has been in use since at least WWII, and until Billy Boy found this nag he thought he could run into the ground, nobody thought much of it. It was then – and remains today – an alternate phrase, nothing more and nothing less.
I can’t prove this but I’ve never seen an earlier reference: the phrase may have been born in – or at least gained popularity from – the film Holiday Inn with Fred Astaire, Bing Crosy, a very young Marjorie Reynolds and a very frantic Walter Abel. In the movie – a musical, of course – one of the featured songs is titled, oddly enough (O’Reilly Dittoheads, get your retroactive conspiracy theories ready on the launching pad), “Happy Holidays”. The film was released in – wait for it – December of 1942. That’s, um (1,2,5….) 64 years ago, at the beginning of the war. Ads done during the war and for the next 60 years used “Happy Holidays” as an alternative to “Merry Christmas” and you know what? Nobody thought a thing about it.
No one was catering to “atheist secular humanists” and it never occurred to anybody that a secret cabal (led by Fred and Bing, I guess) was using Hollywood to lead the Charge of the Left Brigade in the War Against Christianity. Madison Avenue wasn’t using “Happy Holidays” because it wanted to appease froth-mouthed secular humanists waving subpoenas and threatening timid agency ad execs with AK47’s. It was just a way to vary their copy, and until Billy Boy came along, frothing at the mouth and waving petitions around, it was accepted for what it was.
Sorry if I busted your little bubble but until and unless you’re prepared to prove to me that Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby were conspirators in the War Against Xmas 64 years ago, I think you better just shut up about it.