While Fox “News” insults atheists as “grouchy and misanthropic” for the alleged “war on Christmas” and claims that it is targeting the “Christian mindset”, the reality is, when there actually was a war on Christmas (meaning, with violence involved), it was waged by Christians themselves. Ironically, perhaps, the Fox insults are a lot more apt for the Christians who waged it.
Best example of this being, perhaps, the “Protector of England”, Oliver Cromwell.
Life under Cromwell, it seems, wasn’t all so much more pleasant that life in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Having been instrumental in the execution of the King, Cromwell appointed himself Lord Protector in 1653, with his famously unpopular vision to do away with any distractions to Puritanism.
The ‘anti-fun charter’ – conveyed to the population on posters nailed to trees – spells out Cromwell’s grim vision for the nation.
One of the ‘acts and ordinances’ posters, dating to 1651, declares: ‘No observation shall be had of the Five and twentieth day of December, commonly called Christmas-Day.’
And in 1642, parliament ordered theatres to shut – leading to the temporary closure of Shakespeare’s Globe.
That decree reads: ‘Being spectacles of pleasure, too commonly expressing lascivious Mirth and levitie…Publike Stage-playes shall cease, and bee forborne.’
Puritans detested these sorts of activities [celebrations], grumbling that Christmas was observed with more revelry than piety. Worse, they contended that there was no Scriptural warrant for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. Puritans argued (not incorrectly) that Christmas represented nothing more than a thin Christian veneer slapped on a pagan celebration. Believing in the holiday was superstitious at best, heretical at worst.
When the Puritans rebelled against King Charles I, inciting the English Revolution, the popular celebration of Christmas was on their hit list. Victorious against the king, in 1647, the Puritan government actually canceled Christmas. Not only were traditional expressions of merriment strictly forbidden, but shops were also ordered to stay open, churches were shut down and ministers arrested for preaching on Christmas Day.
The Puritans who came to America naturally shared these sentiments. As the Massachusetts minister Increase Mather explained in 1687, Christmas was observed on Dec. 25 not because “Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian” ones. [Emphasis added.] So naturally, official suppression of Christmas was foundational to the godly colonies in New England.
On their first Christmas in the New World, the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony celebrated the holiday not at all. Instead they worked in the fields. One year, the colony’s governor, William Bradford, yelled at visitors to the colony who, unaware that Christmas was celebrated more in the absence than in the commemoration, were taking the day off… After that incident, no one again tried to take off work for Christmas in the colony.
The Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony went one step further and actually outlawed the celebration of Christmas. From 1659 to 1681, anyone caught celebrating Christmas in the colony would be fined five shillings.
I can almost hear Mr. “This-Country-Was-Founded-By-Christians” O’Reilly’s head explode!
Well into the 18th century, those who attempted to keep the tradition of wassailing alive in New England often found themselves arrested and fined. Indeed, the Puritan War on Christmas lasted up to 1870, when Christmas became a legally recognized federal holiday. Until then, men and women were expected to go to work, stores were expected to remain open, and many churches did not even hold religious services.
I loved how Dave Silverman handled Fox’s hostile anchors, but I think they need to get their noses rubbed in this history quite a bit more. It will take the wind out of their sails.