Were America’s early English settlements home to widespread mirth and joy during the Christmas season? Did many of America’s English settlers – especially the most pious groups, such as the Puritans -- have a strong affinity to Christmas celebrations and what they represent? The answer, perhaps surprisingly, is no. In fact, some of those first people to successfully settle in the New England had a strong aversion to Christmas celebrations, notes historian Stephen Nissenbaum in his book The Battle for Christmas.
“In New England, for the first two centuries of white settlement most people did not celebrate Christmas,” writes Nissenbaum. “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) …Puritans were fond of saying that if God had intended for the anniversary of the Nativity to be observed, He would surely have given some indication as to when that anniversary occurred.” Indeed, many scholars report that there is no biblical reference to December 25 as the date of Jesus Christ’s birth.Nissenbaum also notes, among other interesting details, that Puritans had other reasons for opposing Christmas celebrations, too, based largely on what they had witnessed of those events – “… rowdy public displays of excessive eating and drinking, the mockery of established authority, aggressive begging (often involving the threat of doing harm), and even the invasion of wealthy homes.”