Everybody loves Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” but let’s be honest… it’s not even that original. After all, the Puritans tried the same thing in England over 300 years ago. Christmas is such a beloved holiday nowadays that it’s impossible to imagine that anyone would actually try to destroy Christmas, and yet, that’s exactly what the Puritans did.
From 1642-1660, the Puritans waged an unholy war on Christmas. Christmas was declared to be “pagan”, “sinful” and “superstitious”.¹ Ministers condemned it from the pulpit and pamphlets were published, warning against the evils of Christmas. Parliament went so far as to forbid church services on Christmas Day and it was made a day of fasting and penance instead. Even the town criers were sent through the streets, warning against Christmas, and those who were caught celebrating could be sent to jail.
Why did the Puritans try to destroy Christmas? The Puritans had a great respect for the Sabbath day (which in itself is very good) but in their misguided zeal, they then concluded that no feast should be more important than the Sabbath. How they came to believe that honoring Christ would offend Him is beyond me (after all, who doesn’t like it when someone remembers his birthday?). However, they probably developed this belief in part, because the celebration of Christmas isn’t explicitly mentioned in the Bible… that is, if you don’t count the first Christmas… where invited guests came, presents were given and heavenly choirs sang music.
Fortunately, this story (as we can already guess) has a happy ending. But unlike the Grinch, who had a change of heart and saved the day, Christmas was saved from the Puritans in another way…
Soon Charles the Second ascended the throne
And his wishes for freedom of worship were known.
“Of fasting and penance,” he cried out, “No more!”
“Let us celebrate Christmas as we did before!”
And the war waged on Christmas then came to an end
And Christmas was festive in England again!
Resources for a Grinch Free Christmas
Christmas gift Ideas for friends and family – A curated collection of faith based gifts for Christmas for all the people in you life. Mom, Dad, kids, teens, priests and more.
Nativity Sets and Nativity Scenes – Sets from 3-16 pieces along with a collection of beautiful nativity figurines.
1. www.strobertbellarmine.net/books/Weiser–ChristianFeastsandCustoms.pdf Weiser, Francis. Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs. Harcourt Brace and Co., Inc. New York, 1952, p. 64.