Every year without fail the “War On Christmas” begins once again, and every year without fail we see the same tired old memes and talking points from the same old sources about how we need to “Put Christ Back In Christmas.” Whether it’s Sarah Palin hawking another lousy book which is released just in time for the Christmas shopping season (complete coincidence, I’m sure) or Bill O’Reilly’s annual kvetching about the “Secular Progressive assaults on the traditions of Christmas” – enough is enough.
It’s not just these two self-promoting snake oil salespeople spreading misinformation for a buck – there’s millions of people out there who are actually convinced that people like myself and others who believe fully in the separation of church and state are coming for their Christmas. It’s also not a surprise that many of the same people think that Obamacare has death panels, that the government is coming to take their guns, or that gay marriage will somehow be a threat to their own heterosexual union.
Let’s be absolutely clear – there isn’t a “War On Christmas” and nobody is trying to outlaw the holiday. Nobody is going to come and seize your tree or take little Bobby’s presents from under it like The Grinch. This whole fake outrage is nothing more than a gimmick by opportunistic individuals to drive TV ratings and book sales. Christmas isn’t going anywhere; in fact, the holiday now seems to stretch from before Halloween until the dried out tree hits the curb around New Year’s Eve.
However, once upon a time, Christmas was banned – and it wasn’t by “godless atheist secular progressives,” either. Remember the Puritans who came to the New World in search of religious freedom? They completely outlawed Christmas in 1659, and even fined people who celebrated it:
Puritans in the English Parliament eliminated Christmas as a national holiday in 1645, amid widespread anti-Christmas sentiment. Settlers in New England went even further, outlawing Christmas celebrations entirely in 1659. Anyone caught shirking their work duties or feasting was forced to pay a significant penalty of five shillings. Christmas returned to England in 1660, but in New England it remained banned until the 1680s, when the Crown managed to exert greater control over its subjects in Massachusetts. In 1686, the royal governor of the colony, Sir Edmund Andros, sponsored a Christmas Day service at the Boston Town House. Fearing a violent backlash from Puritan settlers, Andros was flanked by redcoats as he prayed and sang Christmas hymns.
Yes, the “Christian values” that our nation was supposedly founded on did not include Christmas, and it wasn’t even made a federal holiday until 1870 when it was signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant.
So the next time some talking head on Fox News or your Republican uncle who believes every word they say tells you that “liberal secularists” are out to destroy Christmas, feel free to teach them some history. Remind them if it had been left up to the religious right, we may not have celebrated the holiday at all.
Screen capture image via Fox News
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