Christmas in America

American history tells us that early settlers of Boston were Puritans who sailed to America in 1630 seeking religious freedom. The early Pilgrims, a separatist group, came ten years later, also seeking their own style of religious freedom.

In the colonies of New England, the Puritan population was staunchly against Christmas and its celebration. They saw it as a holiday associated with Catholic and pagan traditions, which they opposed. Consequently, in 1659 Christmas was officially outlawed in Boston. Anyone found celebrating it was fined fifty shillings and shunned by their neighbors.

This law was revoked in 1681 by a non-Puritan governor, but by that time, Christmas had simply been forgotten, and wouldn’t catch on again until the mid-19th century after Washington Irving wrote stories about how Christmas was celebrated in England before the Puritans took over. German immigrants practiced the tradition of placing evergreen branches and trees in their homes during cold winters, and Catholic immigrants brought the tradition of nativity scenes. The legend of Saint Nicholas and its traditions were brought by European emigrants. By the late 1800s most Americans celebrated Christmas, and President Grant declared Christmas a national holiday to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

Today, most Americans blend religious and secular customs with their own family traditions with food, decorations, and gift giving (thanks, Charles Dickens). For most Americans, Christmas remains a religious occasion, and it blends well with the Jewish Hanukkah.

Today, the holiday season begins with Thanksgiving and ends on New Years Day, giving all of us plenty of time to celebrate, shop, party, eat, pray, and decorate to our hearts content. While it serves us well to be reminded of the original meaning of Christmas, Christmas in the United States reflects the values of a free and diverse people.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from all of us at DLMoneyMatters!