The Atlantic

Baby, Christmas Songs Have Always Been Controversial

Long before “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” holiday songs played a part in the War on Christmas.
Source: Hannibal Hanschke / Reuters

This year’s battle in the War on Christmas is being fought over “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” According to some, the song’s lyrics promote date rape. According to others, including a radio station in Kentucky playing the tune on continuous loop, it’s a harmless ditty and a Christmas classic. Commentators on Fox News, who look forward to the War on Christmas more eagerly than children await actual Christmas, put the controversy in heavy rotation on their airwaves. “Do we get to a point where human worth, warmth, and romance are illegal?” Tucker Carlson wailed on his television show.

In some ways, the “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” squabble is as contemporary as it gets: an outgrowth of the #MeToo movement on the one hand, and of the right’s anti-PC hysteria on the other. But it also fits into the long history of censoring and scrutinizing Christmas songs, and the much larger debate over who gets to control the holiday.

Like so many early Christian rituals, singing

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