Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Puritan Christmas

This year my Christmas festivities were very modest, comparable to Puritan practice in seventeenth-century England.

Puritan political influence made Parliament pass the following law in June 1647:

Ordinance for Days of Recreation, in Lieu of Holidays.

“Forasmuch as the Feasts of The Nativity of Christ, Easter, Whitsuntide, and other Festivals, commonly called Holy-days, have been heretofore superstitiously used and observed: Be it Ordained, by the Lords and Commons in Parliament assembled, That the said Feasts of The Nativity of Christ, Easter, and Whitsuntide, and all other Festival-days commonly called Holy-days, be no longer observed as Festivals or Holidays, within this Kingdom of England and Dominion of Wales."

The Puritans sought to ban Christmas because of its Roman Catholic associations (as Christ's Mass) and because of the season's scandalous, carnival-like revelry that fostered drunkenness, gluttony, and fornication. For the Puritans, Merry Olde England had gotten a bit too merry under the reign of Charles I.

My own sedate Christmas observance was not a reaction against either Roman Catholicism or excessive partying. The day was cold and snowy, and it was simply more convenient to have a quiet dinner at home with my younger son. In keeping with the New Testament origins of the Christian Church, we dined on simple Jewish fare: lentil soup and Hebrew National hot dogs.