In New England, for the first two centuries of white settlement most people did not celebrate Christmas. In fact, the holiday was systematically suppressed by Puritans during the colonial period and largely ignored by their descendants. It was actually illegal to celebrate Christmas in Massachusetts between 1659 and 1681 (the fine was five shillings). Only in the middle of the 19th century did Christmas gain legal recognition as an official public holiday in New England. Writing near the end of that century, one New Englander, born in 1822, recalled going to school as a boy on Christmas Day, adding that even as late as 1850, in Worcester, Massachusetts, “The courts were in session on that day, the markets were open, and I doubt if there had ever been a religious service on Christmas Day, unless it were Sunday, in that town.” As late as 1952, one writer recalled being told by his grandparents that New England mill workers risked losing their jobs if they arrived late at work on December 25, and that sometimes “factory owners would change the starting hours on Christmas Day to five o’clock or some equally early hour in order that workers who wanted to attend a church service would have to forgo, or be dismissed for being late to work.
The Battle for Christmas
A dear friend of mine, Jeff Hoffman, who I was blessed to teach youth Sunday school at West End United Methodist Church in Nashville for several years gave me this book during that time. The book is a wonderful history and social study of this most marvelous time of the year.
You may well be thinking, ‘David, that is a very strange way to begin a Christmas greeting.’
In a traditional sense I would have to agree. However, as you turn the pages of this Christmas greeting and message I have no doubt that regardless of your beliefs, persuasions and traditions you will be delighted, entertained and gifted with the love and the light the season is ours to share.
‘God bless us each and every one,’ Tiny Tim