War on Christmas Fraud Exposed: The Silent Night “Rewrite” That Wasn’t

On Friday, Bill O’Reilly took to the airwaves to share the latest “War on Christmas” outrage:

In Dodgeville, Wisconsin, the Ridgewood Elementary School has changed the song Silent Night to Cold in the Night and forced the kids to sing the lyrics, “Cold in the night, No one in sight, Winter winds whirl and bite,” to the tune of the original Silent Night.

O’Reilly was by no means the only conservative to repeat this story. During a Dec. 10 appearance on Fox News, Mathew Staver of the Liberty Counsel said the presentation at Ridgewood Elementary had “no balance here. They have no Christian Christmas carols.” He even threatened to sue the school:

People are outraged. We sent a demand letter asking them to immediately change the song and allow the actual lyrics of “Silent Night,” and if they do not, if they insist on this ridiculous course of action, we’ll file a federal lawsuit.

As it turns out, the entire story is a fraud.

Ridgewood Elementary didn’t change the lyrics to “Silent Night.” What they did was perform a 1988 copyrighted play called “The Little Tree’s Christmas Gift.”


That play actually contains numerous songs about Christmas, including the grand finale, an audience-led group singing of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.” The play’s creator, Dwight Elrich, happens to lead the New Covenant Singers of Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles.

In fact, “The Little Tree’s Christmas Gift” has been performed in several churches, including the Oakwood Forest Christian Church in Kingsport, Tennessee, the St. Anthony Parish School in Des Moines, Iowa, and St. Mark’s Episcopal Church of Abeline, Texas.

So why are the Silent Night lyrics changed in “Little Tree’s Christmas”? Because the play is about a small, lonely Christmas tree that is told it is “too scraggly, it will never sell.” That character sings the revised lyrics — “Cold in the night, No one in sight, Winter winds whirl and bite” — in a scene lamenting his sad state. The rewording has absolutely nothing to do with “secularizing” the song.

Sorry, Virginia, there is no “War on Christmas.”