May 11, 1659 – Massachusetts Bans the Celebration of Christmas

The early Puritans in Massachusetts regarded Christmas as a “false” celebration of the birth of Jesus, with stronger ties to paganism than to Christianity. They also disapproved of the drinking and partying associated with the holiday.

Thus, on this day in history in 1659, the Massachusetts Bay Colony legislature passed a ban on the celebration of Christmas. The General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony made it a criminal offense to publicly celebrate the holiday, declaring that “whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way” was subject to a 5-shilling fine.

A 1659 public notice about the ban on Christmas celebrations from History of Massachusetts blog

The ban was not repealed until 1681, when a new surge of European immigrants brought with them a demand for the holiday. Still, the holiday was not universally embraced. In 1856, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote in his journal:

We are in a transition state about Christmas here in New England. The old Puritan feeling prevents it from being a cheerful hearty holiday; though every year makes it more so.”

It was not until April 15, 1856 that the Massachusetts legislature made Christmas an official holiday in the state.

Christmas in Present-Day Boston, Massachusetts

Christmas in Present-Day Boston, Massachusetts

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