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How to Have a Puritan Christmas

Updated on December 7, 2012

Don't Celebrate

December 25 is a day that many people in America and around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus. It is very unlikely from internal biblical evidence that Jesus actually came on December 25, but early Christians chose the date regardless. It actually fell close to pagan celebrations in the Roman era.

English Puritans actually banned the holiday. During the Interregnum between the execution of King Charles I and the Restoration of Charles II, the Puritans banned the holiday as having too close a relation to popish superstition. Instead of gift giving and merry making, the Puritans replaced Christmas feasts with a Christmas fast. Immoral and wasteful behavior related to holidays went against the Puritan work ethic, and anything associated with Catholicism was extremely suspect. It's a bit ironic that those who claim to be descendents of the Puritan ideology are now complaining about a war on Christmas when one of the earliest wars on Christmas was carried out by the Puritans.

If you're wanting to celebrate Christmas like the Puritans in early America celebrated Christmas, you should just go to work in most years. However, since this year's festivities fall on Sunday, the day that Puritans held as the Sabbath, you should go to church and refrain from doing any work or anything else that may take your mind off of religious duty on Christmas. The Puritans tied the idea of Christmas to paganism, and it's pretty easy to see that the greenery, Christmas trees, elves, and, yes, even Santa Claus have no part in the biblical Christmas story.

The Puritans in early America did not celebrate Christmas. Their descendent often did not celebrate Christmas. For a time in early New England, Christmas was basically banned and those who chose to live it up a bit found themselves owing a fine to the authorities for their misappropriation of time with such pagan folly. School in Boston actually continued in session on Christmas (unless a weekend) until the 1870s--which was after President Ulysses S. Grant made the holiday a national holiday. Those who skipped out on school for revelry during Christmas had some explaining to do after their return to school.

After the 1870s, the crackdown on Christmas slacked, and the holiday came to be more of a commercial phenomenon as is common now. Some scholars such as Laurence Moore argue that Christmas would not be an official holiday in America today without the commercial trappings of the day because of the separation of church and state. Looking at how unimportant the day seemed in early America, it is an interesting concept.

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    • Jeff Berndt profile image

      Jeff Berndt 5 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      Wow, looks like the war on Christmas is older than most of us thought! Thanks for the info, cprice!

    • cprice75 profile image
      Author

      cprice75 5 years ago from USA

      You are qute welcome, Jeff. The reasoning is different, but the result is much the same.

    • Freeway Flyer profile image

      Paul Swendson 5 years ago

      It's funny that all of the people who get so bent out of shape about the "commercialization" of Christmas fail to realize that this was not much of a religious holiday until fairly recently in history. If anything, Jesus probably gets as much publicity on Christmas now as at any time in history.

      If also find it funny that the Pilgrims and Puritans get celebrated much at all. They weren't exactly people that most of us would want to hang out with.

    • cprice75 profile image
      Author

      cprice75 5 years ago from USA

      Although I don't think I'd want to hand out with John Winthrop for a lengthy period of time, I do think that the Puritans are pretty important in American history. If for nothing else, they birthed (and then expelled) people like Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson who helped lead to the concept of religious liberty. They were very radical for their day. The Pilgrims, on the other hand, are better known in popular culture while being much less significant in the grand scheme of things. You are probably right that many people hear more about Jesus at Christmas in spite of Santa Claus, Rudolph, and elves.

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