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War on Christmas Was Very Real— in the 1600s

Boston Puritans banned the holiday
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 15, 2013 6:31 AM CST
War on Christmas Was Very Real— in the 1600s
Boston banned Christmas in 1659.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – The War on Christmas existed long before Fox News. In the 17th century, it was an indisputable fact: Boston Puritans canceled Christmas for 22 years, and those caught celebrating were hit with a fine, Mental Floss explains. A court order in 1659 warned against "observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way"; the ban remained until 1681. Working was required, and concerned Puritans actually sent out town criers to yell, "No Christmas! No Christmas!"

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At the time, however, holiday celebrations were quite different from today's. For instance, the practice of "wassailing" saw less-wealthy colonists seeking food and drink from their richer counterparts—and when they didn't get it, things could get violent. The Rev. Increase Mather, meanwhile, was troubled by holidays spent "playing at Cards, in Revellings, in excess of Wine, in Mad Mirth," he wrote in 1687, as Slate and the Massachusetts Travel Journal have noted. In 1681, governor Sir Edmund Andros ended the ban—but it wasn't until the late 19th century that Christmas celebrations got popular in the area. (Read more war on christmas stories.)

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