Chistmas Was Once Banned in Massachusetts

A repost from last Christmas – let’s think about how things once were and how much they change and may change again – and never underestimate the power of words and images.


MassMoments reminds us today that the Puritans of Massachusetts led by minister Increase Mather thought the celebration of Christmas a vulgar, pagan-like and “profane and superstitious custom.”  Over those early years the custom was never totally stamped-out. In the early 19th century when the revelry – especially drinking and merry-making  that some associated with Christmas – was claimed to pose a threat to public order, middle- and upper-class Americans moved to re-make Christmas as a family holiday. The appearance of the poem – “A Visit From Saint Nicholas” by Clement Moore -presented an idealized, child-center Christmas. Santa Claus became the image of Christmas.

An 1856 Massachusetts law accorded legal holiday status to Christmas, Washington’s Birthday, and July 4 th. The success of including Christmas in this measure was due to the growing number of Irish Catholics in the electorate. To this day, Christmas Day is one day when public offices, government and most business shuts down.

On this day

      …in 1659, a law was passed by the General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony requiring a five-shilling fine from anyone caught “observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way.” Christmas Day was deemed by the Puritans to be a time of seasonal excess with no Biblical authority. The law was repealed in 1681 along with several other laws, under pressure from the government in London. It was not until 1856 that Christmas Day became a state holiday in Massachusetts. For two centuries preceding that date, the observance of Christmas — or lack thereof — represented a cultural tug of war between Puritan ideals and British tradition.

Read the full article here at

Happy Christmas to All!

2 Responses to Chistmas Was Once Banned in Massachusetts

  1. Christopher says:

    Those who scream about a supposed “War on Christmas” ought to be reminded that the only time in our history that Christmas really was banned was when the theocrats were running the show.

  2. Daniel Patrick Murphy says:

    The law prohibiting Christmas in the 1650’s was not the only prohibitive law.
    The Puritan settlers of New England objected to any Irish being sent to them.
    The following act passed in the General Court of Massachusetts on October 29, 1654:
    “This Court, considering the cruel and malignant spirit that has from time to time been manifest in the Irish nation…, do hereby declare their prohibition of bringing any Irish, men, women or children in this jurisdiction, on the penalty of 50 pounds sterling to each inhabitant who shall buy [yes buy–50,,000 Irish slaves were sold from 1652-1657] of a merchant, shipmaster or other agent, any such person or persons so transported by them.”

    (Taken from Sean O’Callaghan”s book, To Hell or Barbados, The ethnic cleansing of Ireland.)

    Daniel Patrick Murphy
    PS Bardbados became a verb at this time in Ireland: ‘Barbadoes you’.

    Merry St. Stephen’s Day to All (Lá Fhéile Stiofán)