Skip to comments.When Christmas was illegal: the Holy War against Christmas in North America (Calvinism)
Posted on 12/22/2010 9:01:56 PM PST by narses
Few people engaged in the "War on Christmas" are aware that at one time it was a crime in Massachusetts to celebrate Christmas. Oh sure, some will say, count on liberal Massachusetts to pass a law against Christmas. But it was Calvinist Massachusetts, in the days of the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies, the Pilgrims and Puritans, that established penalties for the observance of Christmas Day "by abstinence from labor, feasting, or any other way."
The noisiest opposition to public celebration of Christmas today comes from professed agnostics and atheists, particularly those seeking "freedom from religion." But there are still devout Christians who proclaim that "The Christ of the Bible does not represent a perpetuating of idolatrous customs of any kind, like that of Christmas, Halloween, or Easter, nor will He live in any confessed believer, or save, or protect any person who has any association with these idolatrous days," citing among other scriptures, II Corinthians 6:14-17.
There is a reason this holy war against Christmas does not receive the same media attention as the secular war against Christmas: Those who consider Christmas "the deception of Satan the Devil" are not going to court or seeking to use the machinery of government to sway people one way or the other. They are simply preaching, to anyone who will listen.
Some denominations, such as the Seventh Day Adventist Church, maintain that "When the world at large celebrate the day, they show no honor to Christ," but rather than denounce all celebration, recognize that parents "will find it a difficult matter to pass over this period without giving it some attention." Accordingly, Adventist theologians advise "let not the parents take the position that an evergreen placed in the church for the amusement of the Sabbath-school scholars is a sin; for it may be made a great blessing."
Anglicans, Roman Catholics, and Lutherans, celebrated Christmas from their earliest arrival in North America, as had always been their custom. (Some stories attribute to Martin Luther the first Christmas Tree dragged inside a house a decorated.) However, Presbyterians and Baptists did not, nor did many Methodists, particularly those converted by revival during the Great Awakening of the 1740s and 1750s. So the holiday did not have a prominent role in the community at the birth of the new United States of America.
No state legally recognized a Christmas holiday until 1836, and the federal congress did not acknowledge such a holiday in legislation until 1870, just six years before the nation's centennial. Santa Claus was invented in the 1840s by a committee of New York businessmen who wanted to promote sales. They borrowed the tradition of "Sinter Klaas" brought to New York by Dutch immigrants - originally a variation on St. Nicholas.
The first White House Christmas Tree was decorated by President Franklin Pierce in 1856. Bringing a tree into the White House only became a regular annual event in 1889, when President Benjamin Harrison celebrated Christmas with his children and grandchildren.
In 2010, Colorado atheists have splurged on billboards to protest nativity scenes at Denver city hall, scenes that have already been thoroughly litigated. In New Jersey, the Catholic League indulges in dueling billboards with American atheists. It is certainly not an old American tradition. Everyone seems to forget that, at the time the Constitution was written, nobody thought much about Christmas at all, not even Christians. Before the separation of church and state, it used to be against the law to celebrate Christmas.
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Liberal plots notwithstanding, the Americans who succeeded in banning the holiday were the Puritans of 17th-century Massachusetts. Between 1659 and 1681, Christmas celebrations were outlawed in the colony, and the law declared that anyone caught “observing, by abstinence from labor, feasting or any other way any such days as Christmas day, shall pay for every such offense five shillings.” Finding no biblical authority for celebrating Jesus’ birth on Dec. 25, the theocrats who ran Massachusetts regarded the holiday as a mere human invention, a remnant of a heathen past. They also disapproved of the rowdy celebrations that went along with it. “How few there are comparatively that spend those holidays after an holy manner,” the Rev. Increase Mather lamented in 1687. “But they are consumed in Compotations, in Interludes, in playing at Cards, in Revellings, in excess of Wine, in Mad Mirth.”
The Calvinist Puritans were tossed out of England after Cromwell’s murderous dictatorship outlawed art, music, theater, anything fun. In US history, by contrast, they have been romanticized as the inventors of the Thanksgiving turkey.
Oh, horrors! Those evil nasty Clavinists! Calvinians. Whatever.
Well and good, but what connection with Calvinism are you alleging? The Puritans were generally Calvinists in matters of salvation, but it was their view of the covenants, and specifically the Regulative Principle, that led to their rejection of all religious practices not specifically prescribed by Scripture. While the two systems often do appear together as a matter of history, there is no direct logical connection between the Doctrines of Grace and the Regulative Principle.
While the differences in theology and dogma can be endlessly debated, historical fact cannot. Where ever Calvinists have had a monopoly on power they have established a society void of color, joy and hope.
Really? So those who believe what Jesus said, that all those who believe in Him will have everlasting life, tend to create joyless dictatorships? Methinks you extrapolate too much from too little, and have presented a sweeping generalization that cannot be factually supported. You have believed a highly selective, skewed history, a history as told by Calvinism’s enemies, but not in its own native tongue. Meet them on their own terms, in their own words, and you find them a humble, God-fearing people who sincerely wished to obey God in all things. In other words, you find them Christian.
In the absence of any effort on your part to articulate evidence of a connection between Calvinist soteriology and the Regulative Principle, I must assume you are conceding the point that there is no such connection. I gladly accept your concession.
The Puritans had it exactly right, because they knew their Bible and their history. The holiday celebrated on Dec. 25th has nothing to do with the birth of Jesus Christ and everything to do with pagan traditions.
I always wondered when I was younger, what does an evergreen tree, and the colors red & green, have to do with Jesus? The answer is nothing, but they have everything to do with the worship of the Babylonian god Tammuz (mentioned in Ezekiel 8:14), which dates all the way back to the times of Genesis. Tammuz worship was well known to Jeremiah, who specifically warned against its tradition of the decorated tree in Jeremiah 10:2-4...well before the birth of Christ!
It is believed by many scholars that Jesus was actually born in autumn, and specifically on the Feast of Tabernacles, where back in Exodus chap. 25, God said that he would come and dwell with us (not enough space to fully argue this point.)
So what do I do on Dec. 25th? For now, I celebrate “Christmas” with my family because they don’t know any better, and I believe it better to show love until they can come to the truth.
He who has ears to hear, let him hear. (Matthew 11:15)
ROTFLMAO! You are getting more funny with every post.
” The holiday celebrated on Dec. 25th has nothing to do with the birth of Jesus Christ and everything to do with pagan traditions.”
Like Jesus said, let him who has ears to hear, let him hear. Study before you draw conclusions, FRiend. I wasn’t born believing this either.
Unbiased readers who happen to read this thread can easily tell the difference between posters posting thoughtful posts vs those who can’t refute the arguments, and they just keep rolling on the floor, thinking that is going to impress anyone or help him/her win the argument.
I also find it peculiar that someone with a tagline: “Prefer nothing to the love of Christ” shows no respect towards a fellow human being.
Have you no sense of humor? Read the posts again. Try hard. Then laugh.
Not all, but the Calvinists have every chance they have had. Whether Calvin's Geneva, Cromwell's oppression of the English, Scottish and Irish peasantry or the hell that was the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the theme was a joyless dictatorship in which thought crimes were aggressively pursued and punished. I guarantee that for all of their denial or chest thumping no present day loud mouthed Presbyterian would willingly spend a single day under the thumb of a Calvinist regime.
It is true, against the excesses of Roman Catholic worship, the Calvinists sought to “purify” the church. They (We) took away all unBiblical customs for New Testament worship. So, for example, no incense, no fancy robes, no crossing yourself, no holy water, no recitation of the rosary, etc.etc.etc.
Christmas is one of the many “holy days” recognized by the RC Church. The Calvinists said Sunday is the holy day, and we don’t get to set up any others.
As a Calvinistic Christian I applaud the early Calvinists’ efforts to get rid of all the man-instituted stuff of worship and return to Biblical standards.
However, I celebrate Christmas as do most Calvinists of today, at least in the U.S. It’s just not celebrated as a high holy day, because Calvinists reject special days as regards to worship.
We love Christ, we love that He was born of a virgin in a manger, we love that He rose again. The rejection of particular high holy days as instituted by a church should not have us described as nasty scrooges. The few in my church who don’t celebrate Christmas at all are still kind and sweet people.
“Where ever Calvinists have had a monopoly on power they have established a society void of color, joy and hope. “
Nope. There is feasting, there is revelry, there is joy.
There just isn’t Roman Catholicism!
My paternal grandparents didn’t decorate or celebrate Christmas, and were salt of the earth Christians. They believed there was no Biblical basis for such, and so they didn’t participate. They did, however, give gifts to their grandchildren, no good reason to seem harsh to the little ones, they said. Their ancestry was English.
My maternal grandparents were descended from Lutheran and Moravian settlers, originally German speaking. They celebrated Christmas with all their heart and soul, with traditions going back to the 18th century here and many from before. Wonderful people, too.
You’re attempting to stir a tempest in a teapot. Colonies were established in North America as havens of refuge from persecution. Puritans settled New England. Catholics did the same in Maryland. Anglicans, Virginia, and similar for all the colonies. Over time, these colonies came to embrace freedom of conscience in matters of religion, a revolution was fought and won, and we became the United States.
The celebration of Christmas is near universal here, now, despite efforts to undermine it. It’s an amalgamation of traditions old and not so old, too many being completely commercial in nature, but many remaining true to Christianity in spite of all that.
It’s beautiful and it’s fun and I wouldn’t dream of taking it away from anybody, personally. But, you’ve got to admit also, that flying reindeer, Santa Claus, Christmas trees and all the commercialism have nothing to do with the Christian celebration of Christmas. They’ve been added to it.
So, I understand those who reject it, and respect them as devout, going against the cultural grain to adhere to their understanding of the Bible as some still do, and as many once did.
Three famous Puritans include:
John Bunyan, preacher and author of “Pilgrims Progress”
William Bradford, founder of Plymouth
Jonathan Edwards, early American revivalist - according to answer.com. I could list many more, but to use them as a sampling:
“In 1666, John was briefly released for a few weeks before being re-arrested for preaching and sent back to Bedford gaol, where he remained for a further six years. During that time, he wove shoelaces to support his family and preached to his fellow prisoners - a congregation of about sixty. In his possession were two books, John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, the Bible, a violin he had made out of tin, a flute he’d made from a chair leg and a supply of pen and paper. Both music and writing were integral to John’s Puritan faith.”
I guess he could have had more color, joy and hope if he had not been weaving shoelaces while sitting in jail for preaching without a license. However, note the emphasis on the love of and playing of music. Not to mention he wrote “Pilgrim’s Progress,” a literary work still held to be in the top ten English literary works of all time. A dullard? Really?
Jonathan Edwards “was fascinated by the discoveries of Isaac Newton and other scientists of his age. Before he undertook full-time ministry work in Northampton, he wrote on various topics in natural philosophy, including “flying spiders,” light, and optics. While he was worried about the materialism and faith in reason alone of some of his contemporaries, he saw the laws of nature as derived from God and demonstrating his wisdom and care. Hence, scientific discoveries did not threaten his faith, and for him, there was no inherent conflict between the spiritual and material.
Edwards also wrote sermons and theological treatises that emphasized the beauty of God and the role of aesthetics in the spiritual life, in which he anticipates a twentieth-century current of theological aesthetics, represented by figures like Hans Urs von Balthasar.” Theological aesthetics, scientific inquiry and appreciation? But he had no color, joy or hope!
William Bradford, author of “Of Plymouth Plantation,” was also a poet. “In addition to his more well-known work, Bradford also dabbled in poetry. According to Mark L. Sargent, “his poems are often lamentations, sharp indictments of the infidelity and self-interest of the new generation. On occasion, the poems recycle dark images from the history.” Perhaps he would have danced more jigs or done some stand up had he not lost most of his family in his youth, lost his wife overboard after the trip to America, survived the starving times and experienced a painful near death by getting hung upside down in a deer trap.
Your description of the Puritans is ignorant and ugly. Just because they did not embrace Roman Catholic ideas of worship and some of that culture, does not mean they were unhappy little snivelings. They were men and women of great courage, passion, talent, appreciation, and character. The hardships they endured were at times indescribable. Their contributions to the church and the country have been extraordinary.
Comparing today’s atheistic anti Christians to the pious God loving, God fearing early 17th Puritans is a false comparison & patently absurd
Thanks for the history lesson in “and that’s the rest of the story” fashion!
Actually, you've got your timeline backwards.
The major Puritan migration to New England took place from 1620 to 1640, well before the English Civil War or Cromwell's rise to power. There was remarkably little immigration into New England after 1640. Most later immigrants went elsewhere.
If we're going to make snarky remarks about the Puritans, and they admittedly are an easy and legitimate target, we should also recognize they bear the major responsibility for the fact that England did not descend into the absolutism of all continental countries.
They kept political and religious freedom from dying out of the world. Even when that was not their intent.
Our political system is descended from that saved by the Puritans during the English Civil War, not the absolutism of the continent or the reactions against it embodied in the French and Russian revolutions.
English and Colonial American history do not appear to be all that familiar to the majority of Roman Catholics posting here, with a few notable exceptions. I’ve had to point out many times that the English Civil War was mirrored in many ways in Maryland especially, but also to lesser extent in other colonies.
Why that is, I’m not really sure, but I suspect it relates to ancestry (none English) and the era(s) of their ancestors’ arrival in this country. History “sticks” much better in memory if it can be related to on a personal level, via your own people living through it, it would seem to me.
Could be age, too, since much of this is barely taught anymore.
I think much of this history was hardly ever taught.
Most American history books have always jumped straight from Jamestown and Plymouth, or perhaps the establishment of Pennsylvania, to the events leading up to the Revolution, or maybe to the French and Indian War.
As if nothing of significance happened in the 100+ years in between.
Oh, it was very colorful, much upheaval. Affinities and disaffections were formed then that reverberate to this day.
I agree of course. But everything I learned about this period I learned on my own after leaving school.
For instance, I was surprised to learn that New Englanders never burned witches. They hanged ‘em. And that MA quite quickly repented and apologized for the Salem incident.
And even more surprised that New York (that haven of truth and reason) burned many people alive in the aftermath of a purported slave rebellion.
Not what you think of when you think of New York City.
So I guess I won’t be coming to your house for a little egg nog this Saturday?
Just so you know, the Houghton Mifflin social studies series used in CA and I believe a great many other states, does go into the period between the Puritans’ arrival, the Great Awakening, and the French-and-Indian War in some detail. Emphasis on the governance, differences in religious practices and freedoms (or lack thereof) of various colonies. I know we also usually did individual reports on the history of various colonies. We also read _The Witch of Blackbird Pond_, which provides a lot of insight.
Bwahahahah. As opposed to all the color, joy and hope wrought by Torquemada and Mary Queen of Scotts.
“It is believed by many scholars that Jesus was actually born in autumn, and specifically on the Feast of Tabernacles”
Agreed. Additionally, Jesus never advised Believers to celebrate his birth. I have no problem with celebrating it, though, because it’s about the only time of the year conducive to presenting the gospel through music and word; however, we WERE instructed to “remember his death until he comes.” We’d do well to acquaint ourselves with the Feast of Firstfruits (aka Easter).
Glad to know it’s being taught somewhere.
Was speaking from my personal experience.
I would contend the problem lies when any religion gains “a monopoly of power,” not with the particular religion involved.
A free market in religion is even more important than in business.
“The holiday celebrated on Dec. 25th has nothing to do with the birth of Jesus Christ and everything to do with pagan traditions.”
That’s completely false. Christmas is exactly that - Christ’s Mass, that is, the Mass of Christ’s Nativity. The very name itself tells you what was celebrated. For someone to post comments like yours in complete disregard to all known evidence about what Christians celebrated that day for centuries and centuries is the height of arrogance and sciolism.
“The Calvinist Puritans were tossed out of England after Cromwells murderous dictatorship outlawed art, music, theater, anything fun.” —> they sound like the Taliban. Oh, wait, Cromwell’s crew also destroyed Cathedrals and cut off the eyes of Christ and saints in Churches, didn’t they?
“Where ever Calvinists have had a monopoly on power they have established a society void of color, joy and hope” — I didn’t know the Sauds or North Koreans were Calvinists@ :-P
well, you can decide not to bring a Christmas tree and not to have a fake Saint Nicholas. You can celebrate the birth of Christ without all those accoutrements.
Narses — I think ak-ak is referring to the North American/English/German celebration of Christmas. Ak —> in other parts of the world there is not the materialistic fest, there is not red fat-guy, no tree. These are new innovations. the focus of real Christmas is the Christ child
Some years ago I began reading the stories written by and about the experiences of the former Prisoners of War.I had heard the stories told by the combat soldier and I wanted to
understand what key -if any there was to understand the ultimate in personal deprivation. Common to every story told that I have read— was the belief in God. The experience of God even when the outward appearance /recognition of such was denied by the ones holding the power in those prison camps.
when a man has NOTHING left to sustain him -IF he has belief in God-he will survive. Even those who profess atheism under such extremes often turn to the God they had denied when fat and free. Behold the Judge is standing at the door! James 5:9b c.f. Revelation 3:20
Wasn’t Franklin Pierce the last President who openly supported slavery?
I don't mean that those who govern shouldn't be religious, they should. It is just when the government starts to tell us how we may or may not worship that problems begin. And yes, I think Atheists are as bad or worse than other religions in that respect.
“Anglicans, Roman Catholics, and Lutherans, celebrated Christmas from their earliest arrival in North America, as had always been their custom.”
My family have always been Anglican/Episcopalians except for my grandmother’s family who arrived in SC as Huguenots. Her family later became Episcopalian. We CELEBRATE!
“Where ever Calvinists have had a monopoly on power they have established a society void of color, joy and hope.”
A gross generalization. Specifically, where?
"What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: you shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it" (Deut. 12:32).
"Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the TRADITIONS OF MEN, after the rudiments of the world and not after Christ" (Col 2:8)
Scriptures vs. Mans traditions: The word "traditions" is found 13 times in the New Testament, but only in three cases does it carry a favorable connotation. In the other 10 passages, it incurs the disfavor of Christ and His Apostles.
In the three verses, where the term "tradition" is used favorably, it is evident that the Apostle Paul was talking about something which he and other inspired individuals had taught. Let's look at 1 Cor. 11:2, where we see Paul first using the term tradition in a positive light. "Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances [traditions, principles; and instructions], as I delivered them to you." Here, the word traditions literally means, principles and instructions given to you from God's written word. The idea of being handed down orally from one generation to another, is not in this meaning.
The other two positive examples are found in 2 Thessalonians. "Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions [things already delivered] which you have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle" (2 Thess. 2: 15). That is the boundary we are to stay within. The third example says, "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother that walks disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us" (2 Thess. 3:6).
Paul and the other apostles did not involve themselves in syncretism. These scriptures are clear that Paul is not talking about keeping mans oral traditions handed down over the years, by word of mouth, but the literal, written word of God.
So we simply need to ask. Is what we do something that was established by the original Apostles or something that was added after what was taught and written by them? Anything added after the original 12 Apostles is to be taken as added by mans tradition and after the rudiments of the world and not after Christ"