Skip to comments.Did the Puritans Celebrate Christmas?
Posted on 12/20/2005 9:45:33 AM PST by Irontank
The residents of early New England were strongly influenced by the traditions of Calvinism and the routine of the established Congregational church, honoring hard work and stern independence, which were interpreted as self-sufficiency. They were proud of observing Thanksgiving as the most important day of the year and self-righteous in refusing to observe Christmas day, which they considered an emblem of the Roman Catholic Church. The Presbyterians, Quakers and Baptists also followed the teachings of John Calvin and chose not to celebrate Christmas. It was a day when farmers slaughtered hogs and farm wives dipped their candles. "It was remembered," wrote Samuel Goodrich, that the cellar of his family's house in Connecticut "had been dug in a single day, and that day was Christmas." The Puritans also believed that since the fourth commandment strictly forbade work and play on one day, it implicitly sanctioned them on all others. Scripture commanded the Sabbath, but nothing more. The Puritans took it one step further. They felt that there should be no time allowed for play and frolicking, no matter what day it was. Christianity had given at one time or another special status to 165 days a year. The Puritans felt this was too many and that celebrating any one of them might open the door to idleness, a vice to be suppressed and not encouraged by the church. The thought of setting aside some days as holy offended the Puritans. They felt that one day was not holier than another. This smugness infuriated both Anglicans and Catholics. The Puritans argued that "they for whom all days are holy can have no holiday." Eighteenth Century New England associated Christmas with royal officials, external interference in local affairs and improper behavior. Celebrations on December 25 had become a symbol of all the things that threatened New England's holy mission.
In contrast, the Catholics, Anglicans, Dutch Reformed and Lutherans had the choice of celebrating Christmas. In New England, if they did choose to celebrate, they celebrated very quietly. There was not much display of any Christmas celebrations. The magistrates of New England forbade the "anticks" of Christmas such as decorations, parties and gift-giving and those who partook in any of these festivities could be prosecuted for disturbing the peace.
In contrast, many Southerners celebrated Christmas week in the tradition of the Church of England and gathered their kinfolk around the holiday table. On many plantations, as Solomon Northup said, "the Christmas holidays" were "the time of feasting and frolicking and fiddling - the carnival season of the children of bondage." At Christmas slaves were given their longest holiday from labor, often a week or more, "according to the measure" of each masters generosity. In St. Mary's Parish in southern Louisiana, each plantation owner took a yearly turn in providing an outdoor Christmas feast "for three to five hundred...inviting the slaves from neighboring plantations to join his own on the occasion."
Christmas was the season for punch bowls and balls. The people of Virginia also took greenery to their churches, transforming them in appearance. Evergreens were used to decorate the homes along with mistletoe, which was hung in hidden corners to be taken advantage of when an attractive young lady was under it. Christmas was also a succession of observances that went on without a letup from December 15 to January 6. Christmas itself was not December 25, but January 5, according to the old church calendar; it was not until about 1750 that the date was changed to the present one.
Christmas in the south during the colonial period was not a day of great gift-giving. For the children there were a few toys, none of them elaborate; for the adults, a good wish, a kiss or a handshake. Gift-giving did not gain popularity until the 1800's in Virginia
Catholics have been keeping Christmas as a day of festivity, merriment and generosity for centuries before 1776.
The reason they did not celebrate, is because their theological and politcal opponents did.
Who cares...they were strange to say the least.
This article seems like one of those attack on Christmas rants. Author trying to slip one under the radar from the left wing.
Make a joyful noise unto the world and kick Scrooge in the crotch...ho ho ho!
Michael Medved covers Christmas for the Puritans and US History on
his history tapes/CDs:
Great recounting of the history of Christmas.
Man, the Puritans sure were uptite. Live a little. have fun, have a feast...kill the fattened calf, give gifts and break open the chamagne.
The Pilgrims didn't celebrate anything. They were a very uptight bunch.
They didn't need Christmas, they had their ale's and stong drink and plenty of it and were happy and content.
The other day, I was just going through an old 1950's children's book called "Crusade: Adventures From Our Catholic Heritage" that I picked up used for a dollar...
And, right under Christmas, it stated: "The Puritans in New England tried to do away with Christmas, as they wanted to get rid of all things Catholic. They started Thanksgiving in its stead, but the American people keep Christmas and Thanksgiving, too."
I think most people would be surprised to know that.
They didn't celebrate Christmas in Hawaii for a long time either, because it was Christianized by New England missionaries.
Party on, Saints!
H.L. Mencken once defined Puritanism as "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy"
Considering the bit on Thanksgiving is wrong, I know I'm suprised
Two years before the Pilgrims on December 4, 1619, a group of 38 English settlers arrived at Berkeley Plantation in what is now Charles City, Virginia. The group's charter required that the day of arrival be observed yearly as a day of thanksgiving to God. Captain John Woodleaf held the service of thanksgiving. Here is the section of the Charter of Berkley Plantation which specifies the thanksgiving service:
"Wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually keept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty god."
After hearing Medved go on and on about how brilliant
the gay cowboy movie is, I no longer listen to him!
"Maybe that's why the Catholics are still around and the Puritans aren't."
Oh, we're still here. We just take a less public profile.
And we're not too worked up about Christmas any more, although all the debate about the de-Christianization of Christmas essentially is simply repeating the problems we had with it, mainly that the birth of Jesus was being used as an excuse for commercial profit and debauchery.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.