Banning Christmas -- A Christian Tradition

The Committee to Save Merry Christmas wonders: When did it become offensive to display or say, “Merry Christmas”? 

How about 1659, for starters, when  Christmas was banned (by good Christians, no less!) in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

"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 any such account as aforesaid, every such person so offending shall pay for every such offence five shilling as a fine to the county."

From the records of the General Court,
Massachusetts Bay Colony
May 11, 1659

The Puritans in Massachusetts failed -- the ban was lifted in 1681-- just a similar ban in England did from 1643 to 1660. Even they were late, though, as Victor Parachin pointed out in the Christian Science Monitor some years back:

In AD 245, when a group of scholars attempted to pinpoint the exact date of Christ's birth, a church council denounced the endeavor, declaring that it would be wrong to celebrate the birth of Christ "as though He were a King Pharaoh."

There's some more tidbits at The Alabama Baptist (run by Bob Terry and Jennifer Davis Rash, two fine journalists and good folks).

Like the date of Jesus birth was just might be May 20, because of the presence of shepherds:

The May date was first thought to be closest to the authentic date because of the Bible’s reference in Luke 2:8 that the shepherds were “keeping watch over their flock by night.”
Shepherds only watched over their sheep at night during the spring lambing season. During the winter, the flocks would be inside enclosed corrals without a posted guard.

BTW, the whole "secularization of Christmas" started early too, as Increase Mather pointed on in the 1600s. There was too much eggnog and fun for for Mather's taste back then:

"The generality of Christmas-keepers observe that festival after such a manner as is highly dishonourable to the name of Christ. How few are there comparatively that spend those holidays (as they are called) after an holy manner. But they are consumed in Compotations, in Interludes, in playing at Cards, in Revellings, in excess of Wine, in mad Mirth ..."
Reverend Increase Mather, 1687

Is it too much to ask to get a little bit of historical context in our religion reporting?


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