When Christians Waged War on Christmas

I’ve written before about the fact that the only real war on Christmas was fought by Christians who opposed it because it wasn’t really Jesus’ birthday, was originally a pagan holiday coopted by Christian Roman emperors, and involved entirely too much revelry and happiness (the Puritans weren’t fond of such things). The Week examines that history in some detail:

Puritans in the English Parliament eliminated Christmas as a national holiday in 1645, amid widespread anti-Christmas sentiment. Settlers in New England went even further, outlawing Christmas celebrations entirely in 1659. Anyone caught shirking their work duties or feasting was forced to pay a significant penalty of five shillings. Christmas returned to England in 1660, but in New England it remained banned until the 1680s, when the Crown managed to exert greater control over its subjects in Massachusetts. In 1686, the royal governor of the colony, Sir Edmund Andros, sponsored a Christmas Day service at the Boston Town House. Fearing a violent backlash from Puritan settlers, Andros was flanked by redcoats as he prayed and sang Christmas hymns…

They kept up their boycott of Christmas in Massa­chusetts for decades. Cotton Mather, New England’s most influential religious leader, told his flock in 1712 that “the feast of Christ’s nativity is spent in reveling, dicing, carding, masking, and in all licentious liberty…by mad mirth, by long eating, by hard drinking, by lewd gaming, by rude reveling!”…

Anti-Christmas sentiment flared up again around the time of the American Revolution. Colonial New Englanders began to associate Christmas with royal officialdom, and refused to mark it as a holiday. Even after the U.S. Constitution came into effect, the Senate assembled on Christmas Day in 1797, as did the House in 1802.

It was only later that the celebration of Christmas began to be widely accepted. Now that’s what I call a real War on Christmas.

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  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Darn Puritan Athiests!

  • marcus

    Merry Fucking Christmas everyone!

    May you all be eaten first. Oh … wait.

  • Artor

    You don’t expect Xians to know anything about Xian history, do you? I certainly don’t expect them to know what’s in their own holy book, and I’m rarely surprised on that account.

  • busterggi

    Well they weren’t REAL Christians of course. Except when retroactively required by right wingers.

  • cry4turtles

    Growing up in a secular home, Xmas was always party time. The bar in the basement was a wonderful enabler!

  • grumpyoldfart

    For all those self-pitying Christians, surrounded by the forces of evil at Christmas time, here is your theme song, recorded by Crash Craddock in 1958:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYtZc8UPnlQ

  • dingojack

    “the feast of Christ’s nativity is spent in reveling, dicing, carding, masking, and in all licentious liberty…by mad mirth, by long eating, by hard drinking, by lewd gaming, by rude reveling!”…

    Ah just another of those special Dingo family holidays!

    Dingo

  • Nick Gotts

    “the feast of Christ’s nativity is spent in reveling, dicing, carding, masking, and in all licentious liberty…by mad mirth, by long eating, by hard drinking, by lewd gaming, by rude reveling!”

    You say that like it’s a bad thing, Mr. Mather!

  • http://johnm55.wordpress.com johnm55

    Growing up in Scotland in the 1950’s Christmas day wasn’t a public holiday. I’m not sure whether the Church of Scotland, a fairly Calvinist organisation in those days, thought it was too Catholic and too likely to be enjoyable, or whether we preferred to keep our pagan winter festival purely pagan, because we had, still have two days off for New Year.

  • magistramarla

    “the feast of Christ’s nativity is spent in reveling, dicing, carding, masking, and in all licentious liberty…by mad mirth, by long eating, by hard drinking, by lewd gaming, by rude reveling!”

    Sounds like a very good description of the Saturnalia in ancient Rome. The xtians were simply worried that their listeners would recognize that their precious holiday traditions had been stolen from the pagans.

  • dingojack

    I’m sure Mather went on : “… instead of spending every waking moment praying fervently (in ‘a drizzly kirk of their own imaging’) not to be killed horribly, painfully & slowly in this world, then burned alive for ever & ever, for even the slightest of sin he images we did (that he didn’t clearly lay out to us), because our God is a god of love, justice, mercy & goodness. You can tell it’s so by his love, by his love…”

    @@ Dingo

  • mistertwo

    The opposition continued long after that. I looked up Charles Spurgeon’s “Christmas” sermons last week, and he was very much opposed to celebrating the day.

    When I was a kid our holiday cards (always a photo of the family) said “Season’s Greetings” or “Happy Holidays” because of our friends in Churches of Christ who believed that celebrating Christmas even in a secular way was sinful, because it was associated with the “Catholic holiday”. With “Happy Holidays” it could be considered a New Year’s card.

    The popularity of Christmas is almost entirely due to the secular celebration of it, as the quote from Mather proves. Most of the Christmas songs we hear today, even those recorded recently, were written in the 1940s and 50s, and they’re all about Santa and snow. What seems most ironic is that the very reason Christmas has become such a churchy thing in the last few decades is that the very Baptists who would have opposed it 125 years ago are all for it now. Like so many other subjects, as their numbers shrink they become more vocal about it.