The Puritans Were Behind The Real War On Christmas In America

In the modern Religious Right’s view of America, society would greatly improve if we just went back to the social mores of the era preceding the sexual revolution and the civil rights movement. Some even say that we should look even farther back for a cultural model, returning to the days of the colony at Plymouth, when governing authorities looked to the Bible and resisted secular influences.

Far from being champions of religious freedom, the early Pilgrim and Puritan settlers actually persecuted religious dissidents, particularly Quakers, Catholics and Baptists.

The two groups also loathed Christmas, the holiday which Religious Right leaders today claim is under attack from liberals who fail to say “Merry Christmas” when greeting people and cafes that don’t put the two words on their coffee cups.

The Pilgrims proscribed Christmas celebrations and lambasted the holiday as a blasphemous corruption of Christianity. The Puritans who led the Massachusetts Bay Colony deemed Christmas festivities unbiblical and banned the holiday in 1659. One Massachusetts Bay Colony law stated:

For preventing disorders arising in several places within this jurisdiction, by reason of some still observing such festivals as were superstitiously kept in other countries, to the great dishonor of God and offence of others, it is therefore ordered by this Court and the authority thereof, that whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way, upon such accountants as aforesaid, every person so offending shall pay of every such offence five shillings, as a fine to the county.

Not to be outdone, Puritan leaders in colonial Connecticut explicitly banned people from observing Christmas in their Blue Laws.

These laws came just years after and outlasted the ban on Christmas in England, where the day was associated with cross-dressing and drinking, under the rule of the Puritan Oliver Cromwell.

The real story of the War on Christmas, unfortunately for the Religious Right, reflects the dangers of theocracy, not liberalism.