Did You Know It Was Once Illegal to Celebrate Christmas in Massachusetts?
For years, there have been Christmas themed movies with some farfetched plots where somehow throughout the storyline, they would find a way to make it so 'Christmas can't be celebrated' or 'Christmas has to be saved'. In every film, although it may be entertaining to watch during the holidays, it seems like the most insane fictional situation that could never be possible. But did you know that Christmas used to be illegal in Massachusetts?
It sounds like as if they took the plot of 'Footloose' and instead of making dancing illegal, they replaced dancing with Christmas. Where's Kevin Bacon when you need him?
However, during the time when Christmas was illegal, it was a time when you weren't likely to see any kind hearted kids stepping forward to risk everything to make the holiday happen. Nor did they have to make sure Santa could help all the children get their presents. And there was no Grinch to steal all the gifts either. Instead, it was the evil Puritans.
You read that right. The Puritans apparently had enough of the Christmas. In fact, it was a holiday that some referred to as 'Foolstide'. It seems that after the Puritans in England had overthrown King Charles I in 1649, one of their primary goals at hand was to ban Christmas. The Puritans that had already settled in New England followed along with this idea as if they thought they were really onto something. Therefore, in 1659, the Massachusetts Bay Colony's General Court decided that anyone celebrating the timeless tradition of Christmas was committing a criminal offense.
Their law that was enacted was called a 'Penalty For Keeping Christmas'. It stated that:
...whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way...
Anyone that was found guilty of observing Christmas was fined five shillings. Today, that amount is approximately $48. Perhaps with recent inflation, it may be even more.
It seems the Puritans had followed the notion that there had been no scriptures in the Bible that had mentioned a season and/or particular day that marked the birth of Jesus. The Puritans didn't care for the pagan roots of Christmas either. Instead, the Puritans thought of it more as of an excuse for debauchery. To them, that meant things like feasting, drinking, gambling, and other behaviors as such. They would not approve of the picture below.
However, according to the History Channel, there doesn't seem to be a record of any prosecutions for the strange law. It seems they were most concerned about disorderly conduct on 'Foolstide'. Therefore, if people celebrated Christmas privately, everything seemed fine.
Then in 1681, King Charles II was facing political pressure and had let the New England Puritans that they were kind of being absurd so they reluctantly let up on their dumb law that had previously made celebrating Christmas a criminal offense. Just read how stupid that actually sounds. So, thanks King Charles II! Apparently, that's this dude with a mustache in the pic below.
However, even after that, public displays of celebrating Christmas were frowned upon. In fact, in Massachusetts, it wasn't even until 1856 that Christmas, George Washington's Birthday, and the Fourth of July were celebrated as public holidays.
It seems like that was a long time that Massachusetts wasn't able to fully celebrate Christmas. Shouldn't we get some sort of days to make up for all that time lost? I'm just trying to get extra holidays added at this point. But now you know that Christmas was at one time, "illegal" in Massachusetts.