Skip to comments.There is a War on Christmas—In the History Books
Posted on 12/29/2015 5:41:12 PM PST by Coleus
A war on Christmas? Has nobody seen Arthur Christmas? The North Pole has stealth technology and fanatical commando elvesâyou screw with that at your own peril. But there was a time in America when celebrating Christmas was illegal. For 22 years in the 17th century, from 1659-1681, celebrating Christmas carried a hefty fine imposed by Puritans who viewed the holiday as a borrowing from pagan Roman celebrations. âWhosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way, upon any such account as aforesaid, every such person so offending shall pay for every such offence five shilling as a fine to the county,â ordered the lawmakers of the day.
That this pagan source for the festivities is quite possibly true (letâs have a shout-out to Saturnalia) shouldnât be a knock on the day to anybody who appreciates the human need to have a good time, whatever the justification. Of course, this group doesnât include Puritans. Not a fun bunch. Under their rule, illicitly observing the holiday meant closing the shutters, staying indoors, and showing no particular sign of joy lest the authorities intervene and levy penalties. Come to think of it, Boston hasnât changed all that much. Prof. Paul V.M. Flesher of the University of Wyoming has nicely documented the long history of hostility toward Christmas among Christians. Protestant dissenters rejected not just Roman Catholic theology, but many of the trappings that they regarded as frivolous and unfounded in biblical sources.
â[T]he Calvinists in Switzerland banned all Christian holy days not mentioned in Scripture. That approach meant that the Sabbath was acceptable, but nothing else. Christmas, Easter, Pentecost and other celebrations were to be treated as normal days with nothing special about them.â At different times, bans on Christmas were imposed by religiously minded rulers on the continent, as well as in Scotland and England. And the Massachusetts Bay Colony, of course. Christmas was technically legalized in Massachusetts in 1681, by a royal governor who shot right past liberalization and made the holiday compulsory (something of a recurring feature in human history).
Unsurprisingly, given the strong feelings involved, the holiday remained controversial even after the mandatory aspects, pro and con, were removed. Celebrants sometimes risked something that approached real warlike conditions. Anti-Christmas rioters (yes, I just wrote those words) besieged worshippers in Kingâs Chapel on Christmas Day in 1706, smashing windows and throwing fists. A century later, celebrating the holiday remained dangerous. A watchman was killed when nativist thugs attacked celebrants leaving a Roman Catholic mass at St. Peterâs Church in New York City on Christmas Day. Actually, Christmas rioting has been kind of a thing, to the point of tradition. On Christmas Day 1826, about one-third of West Point cadets got plastered on eggnog and trashed their barracks. But this was less of a war on Christmas than a good Christmas party that turned into a war.
On a less violent and more killjoy note, Boston public schools punished as truants children who stayed home on Christmas up until the day was included in the first batch of federal holidays in 1870. Modern commentators sometimes react with charges of a âwar on Christmasâ to attempts to make celebrations non-sectarian or secular to accommodate a society of many religious views, or none at all. Pull a stylized reindeer off your coffee cups or yank Santa visits from the school field trip schedule and you might as well be carpet bombing Bethlehem. Never mind that corporations have been positioning to appeal to the most, and offend the fewest, customers since day one. And never mind that I had no idea that schools had ever started taking the tots to see the jolly old elf. Isnât that what bored parents are supposed to do in crowded malls on the Saturday after Thanksgiving?
âYes, Virginia, there really is a war on Christmas,â Liberty Institute CEO Kelly Shackelford insisted two years ago, while pointing to a number of restrictions on celebrations at public institutions. As if government officials ever needed an excuse to be ham-handed and over-literal in their interpretations of rules. As for removing explicitly religious songs from school pageantsâ¦ Itâs always a challenge to accommodate religious majorities and minorities in a diverse society. Leaving the religious celebrations out of institutions that everybody is forced to pay for and attend is not necessarily an unreasonable approach. Itâs also much less intrusive than that 19th century Boston practice of punishing children who dared to stay home to celebrate the day.
In fact, nothing in the current litany of complaints begins to rise to the level of the outright bans on Christmas celebrations that marked the colonial period, or the official discouragement of the holiday that prevailed in parts of the country much later. Nor do modern spats over the holiday begin to compare to the sectarian violence that once marked Christmas celebrations. When was the last time that somebody was fined or clubbed for enjoying the holiday in public, let alone on private property? There is a war on Christmas in Americaâbut itâs in the history books. So enjoy your Christmas, if you are so inclined. Invoke Jesus Christ, or Santa Claus, or ignore the day in favor of another holiday or no holiday at all (I try to indulge in all the fun ones myself). Just take it easy on the eggnog. West Point is still living that down.
This article is by Jerome Tuccille, FYI.
Time to bash the stereotypical Puritans. No doubt we will see some outrageous comparisons.
“Time to bash the stereotypical Puritans.”
So the Puritans did not outlaw many Christmas celebrations?
“No doubt we will see some outrageous comparisons.”
Really? Such as?
The Puritans were a group of English Reformed Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries who sought to purify the Church of England from all Roman Catholic practices
Say no more, say no more. It doesn't take much internet searching to see how this would include the deprecation of Christmas, and indeed the word "Christmas" itself explains the matter.
It is lunacy to call this something that was done in America. Its the same when the liberal progressives try to peddle out the Salem Witch Trials as though its something Americans did. They use such casual linkages to diminish Christianity...no other reason.
Christmas: Banned in Early America
The Puritan crusade against Christmas was really a crusade against Catholicism
Many may be surprised to learn that Christmas used to be illegal in America — all thanks to Protestants.
The story begins in England, just before Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell came to power. After crushing royalist uprisings throughout England, Wales and Scotland in the English Civil Wars and overseeing the trial and execution of King Charles I, Cromwell declared himself Lord Protector of the Realm in 1653. He ruled for a brief five years, but during that time did what he could to do away with “papist” elements, implementing his Puritan reforms with zeal.
It was done by the dour Puritans up in Massachusetts, the spiritual forebears of today’s northeastern liberals.
Down in Virginia Christmas was always celebrated, usually with weeks of feasting and parties.
If the Massachusetts Bay Colony comprised all of "America" this statement would be correct. It obviously did not, however. Church Of England, no problem with Christmas. Lutherans, no problem with Christmas. The vast majority of Protestantism, no problem with Christmas.
Freedom of religion, now there's a sticking point for the Catholic Church of that era right up to the twentieth century and Vatican II. They condemned it.
My direct ancestor was murdered by Cromwell. he wasn’t much of a Christian. Don’t have any problem with Christmas.
The anti-CHRISTians just hate public displays of joy and love.
One of the marvels of the American experiment was its acknowledgment and tolerance of diverse religions despite Europe's history of religious wars.
(NOT an impediment to public exercise of any religion).
The system has worked pretty well for over 200 years but with success comes complacency and dissent.
Today we have complacency & dissent in both the religious and secular fabric of society...in the face of the cyclic rise of an unenlightened & unreformed Islamic socio/political/pseudo religious society (Not a race) that was devised in opposition to what were then the dominant religious entities across the region.
A system that was & is inherently expansionist and brutal.
Today we are in the grips of complacency/dissent versus the same unreformed & unenlightened movement that Martel fought off two centuries ago.
Those who do not learn from history...
The adage doesn’t account for the desire to repeat (or retry) what history recounts as failure.
Good points regarding complacency.
He allows it.
All He asks is that we choose sides - then He will conduct the battle.
“The Puritans wanted to eliminate the celebration of saint’s days and festivals such as Christmas, especially because of the pagan practices that came with them.”
There really were no pagan practices. No pagan gods were worshiped, for instance. If doing some of same things pagans do is “pagan practices”, then we’ll have to stop eating, wearing clothes, sleeping. etc.
“You can’t say they weren’t consistent about it.”
Sure I can. Here’s the proof: the months of the year and the days of the week - all pagan names. Puritans used them like everyone else. Their very calendar then was “pagan” by your standard.
“They came to New England (a great hardship for them) so they could do it their way.”
And there they oppressed those who disagreed with them - after fleeing a land because they wanted “freedom”. Again, that inconsistency thing.
“Say what you will.”
I always do.
“Changing the days of the week, the planets, etc., would have been quite a feat even for the resourceful Puritans.”
Wrong. In their own country - right here in North America - they could have easily done it. Also, Puritans used “pagan” marriage practices: wedding rings, exchange of vows in public, etc. Even their clothing could be called “pagan” according to your standard.
“The modern idea of religious pluralism was quite foreign to the 17th-century way of thinking. The Puritans never pretended otherwise.”
Hence, their inconsistency and hypocrisy.
Puritans didn’t use wedding rings. “Popish.”
“Puritans didnât use wedding rings. âPopish.â”
Excellent, because that not only proves they were stupid bigots but it also proves they could have changed the names of days and months if they wished. After all wedding rings were an ancient Christian practice long before the Puritans showed up.
Thanks for proving my point.
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