Cromwell banned Christmas lest someone somewhere not be having approved fun.
Truthfully merry making can lead to vice: excellent food tempts us to over eat, good drink to drunkenness. Beauty naturally leads to love, love to desire, and not all of us (Lord have mercy!) can handle strong desires well.
The temptation is then to ban or limit the jollification as if happiness were the problem.
Centuries of killjoys trying to regulate their way to holiness should have taught this truth. Laws have limited usefulness: mostly as a signpost, rarely as a change agent.
We have laws where we must in the hope to, perhaps, tamp down the worst of sins, but mostly to provide a grounds for doing justice. Those vices we must punish (mercy Lord!) are made illegal, yet given the frequent misuse of police power Christians have learned to prefer small government.
The problem with vice is not the pleasure, that is the trace of the goodness of the cosmos remaining in human actions. The problem with vice is the vice! Vice takes good actions and twists them, but not all the good is lost. A horrible aspect of sin is how it fools us with the good that comes. That does not make sin better, but worse. If you deface the Mona Lisa for fun, the Mona Lisa might still be beautiful, the fun real, but the misuse of jolliness and the Mona Lisa makes everything worse.
Sin is very bad.
Whether it is secular colleges making endless codes about speech and behavior, all bound to fail, or Christian colleges making endless codes about speech and behavior, all are bound to fail if the goal is changed hearts.* The goal of most educational institutions should be changed hearts.
The harder job is educate our souls to moderation. We can go to the party and behave. (I messed this up as a young person.) Adults demonstrate that one can make merry without making a mess and hopefully kindly step in when we go too far. This is a reason to let Mr. Fezziwig run the party** not the younglings. Fezziwig can show how to be jolly without sin.
I have long appreciated Mom and Dad, aunts and uncles, for these lessons. There is no group of people I would rather be with even if now some are in their eighties! A great mistake has been to segregate our parties. My life would have been better if I had stayed closer to home and learned to party (more) from Mom, Dad, Uncle Roddy, and Aunt Karen.
Nobody did Christmas better.
Most of all, however, they taught me that joy was not foreign to humanity. Our church services were full of laughter and we had splendid parties there. My Mom and Dad are still essential elements to any good party and this Thanksgiving I saw that my aunts and uncles are fun.
Jollification was the natural state of man in Eden, is a taste of Heaven today, and is coming forever.
After all the best party will be the Feast coming at the end of time and there we will have joy forevermore without even a trace of sin. Jesus has mercy so that as many people in as many places in as many times can have Christmas.
* A community may define standards, secular or religious. That is different. Saying “if you come here, we expect you to believe and do x” honestly stated helps a person know what is coming. The boundaries also help form a common community, especially for minority ideas.
**Some of the best Dickens’ Christmas writing is in Pickwick Papers hardly read today. Get the book.