Find Out Why Christmas Used to Be Banned in Massachusetts
We all know that Massachusetts is full of history, but there are a few stories you likely haven’t heard, particularly about the holiday season. Though most of us can appreciate the joy and togetherness that the holidays inspire, especially this year, the residents of Massachusetts once rejected the entire season outright. Some may think that Scrooge or the Grinch hated the holidays, but they have nothing on the 17th-century Puritans who once inhabited the New England region. These debbie-downers went so far as to ban the celebration of Christmas altogether. But why, and how?
The Puritans Plot Against Christmas
The Puritans, who largely comprised the population of Massachusetts, were not big party people. They followed the Bible to the letter, and in their eyes, there was no written record of a Christmas celebration commemorating the birth of Jesus. As such, they believed that this annual celebration was unnecessary and distracted them from their religious practices. To be fair, the Puritans' view point wasn’t completely unwarranted.
In the 1600s, the annual Christmas celebration became a 12-day party that often grew rowdy. "Men dishonor Christ more in the 12 days of Christmas than in all the 12 months besides," lamented one preacher. With roots dating back to the Roman Saturnalia and Norse Yuletide, both the date and manner of these Christmas celebrations reflected the very pagan values to which Puritans found themselves irrevocably opposed.
So opposed, in fact, that the celebration of Christmas was banned for an entire generation in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. At the time, Parliament decreed that 12/25 will instead be a day where residents practice “fasting and humiliation” to be forgiven for their sins. Soon throughout both New England and Old England, the holiday was banned entirely. The General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony made the ban official in 1659, making it a finable offense to celebrate Christmas:
"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."
The no-fun police Puritans held onto this ban until 1681, though the English Monarchy had regained control in 1660. While Christmas was still outlawed in public, it was not uncommon for families to celebrate privately in their homes. This rebellious celebration was more common in fishing villages further away from Boston, the command center of Puritan power.
If you have that inner rebel in you and enjoy celebrating all that is Christmas whenever you so please, then living in America’s number one Christmas town is right up your alley. According to Country Living, Stockbridge is the top-rated Christmas town in the country. The median home value in Stockbridge is $480,753, with a predicted increase in value of 10.2% over the next year!
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