Christmas Trivia - Banning of Christmas
Why was Christmas banned in 1640 (Scotland), 1644 (England), and 1659 (US Colonies)?
In the mid-17th century, the Protestant Reformation changed the way Christmas was celebrated.
Prior to the rise of the Puritans, Christmas was a public holiday, during which businesses closed and people attended church services. During the twelve days of Christmas, buildings were dressed with greenery. There was also dancing, singing, drinking, gift-exchange and plays. The final day of the celebration saw a fresh bout of feasting and carnivals. The long celebration led to excess, including drunkenness, gambling, and promiscuity.
The Puritans frowned on this frenzy of disorder and disturbance.
According to one Puritan of the day, Philip Stubbes, 'More mischief is that time committed than in all the year besides ... What dicing and carding, what eating and drinking, what banqueting and feasting is then used ... to the great dishonour of God and the impoverishing of the realm.' Another Puritan, Hugh Lattimer, wrote, "Men dishonor Christ more in the 12 days of Christmas, than in all the 12 months besides."
Christmas was regarded by the Puritans as a wasteful festival. The Puritans believed that people would be welcomed in to heaven as long as they worked hard in their lifetime. Therefore, enjoyment for enjoyment's sake was disapproved of.
The Puritans not only opposed Christmas's waste and debauchery, they also viewed the festival -- "Christ's mass" -- as an unwanted remnant of Catholicism. They argued that nowhere in the Bible had God called upon his people to celebrate the nativity in this manner. They proposed calling the period Christ-tide -- thus removing the Catholic 'mass' element -- and urged that Christmas be recognized only as a day of fasting and prayer.
Consequently, the Puritans attempted to eradicate all merrymaking during the Christmas period, and to ban all activities relating to Christmas, including attending mass.
Scotland, 1640. A 1640 Act of the Parliament of Scotland abolished the "Yule vacation and all observation thereof in time coming". The act was repealed in 1686.
England, 1644. Oliver Cromwell took over England in 1645. Supported by his Puritan forces, Cromwell believed it was his mission to cleanse the country of decadence. In 1644 he enforced an Act of Parliament banning Christmas celebrations. The ban lasted until 1660.
United States, 1659. Settlers in Massachusetts outlawed Christmas celebrations entirely in 1659. Anyone caught shirking their work duties or feasting was forced to pay a significant penalty of five shillings. The ban continued in New England through the 1680's, but as late as 1850, schools and markets remained open on Christmas Day.