War on Christmas

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The modern war on Christmas is waged by secularists, but did you know the original war on Christmas was actually waged by Christians?

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War on Christmas

by Lex Meyer

Have you ever wondered how the first American settlers celebrated Christmas? It might surprise you to find out that they didn’t. In fact, during the 17th century, the Puritans had laws forbidding the celebration of Christmas.

The original war on Christmas was waged during the sixteenth and seventeenth century by Protestant Christians who opposed the pagan traditions of the Catholic church. The Pilgrims who came to America in 1620 were strict Puritans, with firm views against holidays such as Christmas and Easter, rejecting them because of their pagan origins. They were particularly contemptuous of Christmas, nicknaming it “Foolstide”.

Christmas decorations were considered to be unholy pagan rituals, traditional foods such as mince pies and pudding were banned, and businesses were required to remain open all day on Christmas. They made it illegal to mention the name of St. Nicolas, exchange gifts, or sing carols, and anyone caught ditching their work duties or feasting was fined five shillings.

Around the time of the American Revolution anti-Christmas sentiment flared up again because Christmas had become associated with England for so many years. In fact, after the U.S. Constitution came into effect, the Senate assembled on Christmas Day in 1797, as did the House in 1802.

We also see Christmas come up as one of the issues affecting the Civil War. The North and South were divided over the issue of slavery, as well as Christmas. President Lincoln asked Thomas Nast to create a drawing of Santa Claus with some Union soldiers. This image of Santa supporting the North had a demoralizing influence on the Confederate army. Many people in the North considered it a sin to celebrate Christmas, while Christmas was an important celebration in the South. This is why it is no surprise that the first states to legalize Christmas were the southern states of Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas.

The ban on Christmas remained in New England until 1856 when Christmas became a legal holiday. Even then, some schools continued to hold classes on December 25 until 1870 when President Ulysses S. Grant declared it a federal holiday. Although the change was gradual, people eventually began to embrace the holiday in all of its fullness, complete with trees, wreaths, mistletoe, and Santa Claus.

Now, listen to what the well-known preacher, Charles Spurgeon, had to say about Christmas.

"We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas: first, because we do not believe in the mass at all, but abhor it, whether it be said or sung in Latin or in English; and, secondly, because we find no Scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Savior; and, consequently, its observance is a superstition, because not of divine authority."
(Charles Spurgeon, Sermon on Dec. 24, 1871)
"When it can be proved that the observance of Christmas, Whitsuntide, and other Popish festivals was ever instituted by a divine statute, we also will attend to them, but not till then. It is as much our duty to reject the traditions of men, as to observe the ordinances of the Lord. We ask concerning every rite and rubric, "Is this a law of the God of Jacob?" and if it be not clearly so, it is of no authority with us, who walk in Christian liberty."
(from Charles Spurgeon's Treasury of David on Psalm 81:4.)

In more recent years, another interesting war on Christmas has come to the surface, involving Wiccans and Atheists who celebrate the holiday in all of its festivities and traditions, but reject Christ. These people are trying to bring back awareness that Christmas traditions come from ancient pagan celebrations, and actually have nothing to do with Christ or the Bible. I have met several practicing pagans who actually laugh at Christians for celebrating Christmas, because of its deeply pagan roots.

These people have caused many businesses owners and government officials to feel pressure to remove the word “Christmas” and replace it with “Holiday” or “Season”, to avoid offending non-Christians. This is what people today refer to as the “war on Christmas”.

As a result, many Protestant Christians today are upset and offended, claiming that we need to "put Christ back into Christmas", however, this stands in stark contrast to many of the early Protestants who claimed that Christmas has nothing to do with Christ.

This is an interesting shift from Christians who once boycotted Christmas, to Christians who now boycott retail stores for refusing to greet their customers with the words “Merry Christmas”.

If Christmas is really a religious holiday about Christ, then why are people upset when secular retail stores greet people with “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings”? It sounds like Christmas might have more to do with consumerism than Christians care to admit.

I find it very sad that Protestant Christians today are fighting so hard to reclaim unbiblical man-made traditions that early Protestant Reformers once fought so hard to remove. I hope that puts things into perspective for you.

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