Archive for the ‘puritans’ Category

Whose war on Christmas?

‘Tis the Season of stupid comments about Christmas and a “war on Christmas”.
Funny, but people forget about, or are just plain ignorant of, the FACT that some Christians did not like Christmas based upon its pagan origins and traditions (pretty much all of them are Pagan). 

Christmas was banned in Puritan England and New England as well as Scotland.  Other Protestant faiths refused (and some still refuse) to celebrate Christmas.  It wasn’t until 1870 that Christmas became a federal holiday!

I’m going to grab this comment as a pretty good summary of the state of Christmas in the US:

Christmas is actually a perfect example of the way that a nearly homogeneously Christian dominant culture has segued into a pluralistic one. Christmas is a national holiday mostly because it’s always been one and the inertia is too strong. But Christmas has been co-opted by secular society to the point that it is celebrated by the popular culture as a nonreligious holiday. All the Christmas specials about the “true meaning of Christmas” being abstract notions like “giving” and “caring” and “family” and so on.

The other part of this is that lots of voters still believe that America is a “Christian” country–whatever that means–and any politician who so much as suggested demoting Dec. 25 from its status as a federal holiday would be committing political suicide for no tangible benefit.

So, there really isn’t a “secular war” on Christmas and Christians, it’s that some people don’t realise that the holiday has become secular, rather than religious.

The World Turned Upside Down

Since we are getting into how screwed up things can be when one forgets the lessons of history, or succombs to a more pleasing revised version of history, I present the ballad The World Turned Upside Down.

This was first published on a broadside in 1643 as a protest against the policies of Parliament relating to the celebration of Christmas. Parliament believed the holiday should be a solemn occasion, and outlawed traditional English Christmas celebrations. There are several versions of the lyrics. It is sung to the tune of another ballad, “When the King Enjoys His Own Again”.

Listen to me and you shall hear, news hath not been this thousand year:
Since Herod, Caesar, and many more, you never heard the like before.
Holy-dayes are despis’d, new fashions are devis’d.
Old Christmas is kicked out of Tow
Yet let’s be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn’d upside down.
The wise men did rejoyce to see our Savior Christs Nativity:
The Angels did good tidings bring, the Sheepheards did rejoyce and sing.
Let all honest men, take example by them.
Why should we from good Laws be bound?
Yet let’s be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn’d upside down.
Command is given, we must obey, and quite forget old Christmas day:
Kill a thousand men, or a Town regain, we will give thanks and praise amain.
The wine pot shall clinke, we will feast and drinke.
And then strange motions will abound.
Yet let’s be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn’d upside down.
Our Lords and Knights, and Gentry too, doe mean old fashions to forgoe:
They set a porter at the gate, that none must enter in thereat.
They count it a sin, when poor people come in.
Hospitality it selfe is drown’d.
Yet let’s be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn’d upside down.
The serving men doe sit and whine, and thinke it long ere dinner time:
The Butler’s still out of the way, or else my Lady keeps the key,
The poor old cook, in the larder doth look,
Where is no goodnesse to be found,
Yet let’s be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn’d upside down.
To conclude, I’le tell you news that’s right, Christmas was kil’d at Naseby fight:
Charity was slain at that same time, Jack Tell troth too, a friend of mine,
Likewise then did die, rost beef and shred pie,
Pig, Goose and Capon no quarter found.
Yet let’s be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn’d upside down.

Of course, those who take the term “Conservative”, yet are hardly holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, are more than willing to turn the world upside down.

Even more amusing are the ancestors of the Puritans who want to put “Christ back into Christmas” when Christians were trying to ignore the holiday because of its pagan connections.

Lancaster Witches? Which Lancaster?

This book came to my attention a while back, but it is my latest read.  The title is a bit deceiving since the Lancaster County in question is now known as Lancashire most of the time. Although, some people do call it the County of Lancaster: those people are few and far between.  As I said, these days it’s called Lancashire most of the time.

Of course, this is about Witch hunts from the 1600’s.  That’s more of a puritan thing.  That means that in the US the witch hunts were more of a New England thing since they pretty much kept to themselves in the New World.  On the other hand. Puritans (the puritan mentality) were all over the place in 16th and 17th Century Britain–sticking around way too long in Scotland.

The Quakers in Pennsylvania probably wouldn’t have gone around on witch hunts, preferring to see the godlike quality in the witches.  That would make the title even more interesting if it were about Pennsylvania Witches.  Although the cover would then be a bit incongruous!  Love our witch friends, not hang them!

The basic gist of this post is that there is quite a difference here between the two places.  What the hell has happened in Pennsylvania that gun freaks are running around instead of Quakers and other fringy religious types.

On the other hand, in Lancashire we have the Uni offering this course of Study these days!

My how times change!

Curse you, Oliver Cromwell!

You will find in reading this blog that I don’t have too much love of the Puritans and their effects upon modern society.

and a more traditional version of the tune:

Just in case you forgot….

It’s time to remind all those good Christians who want to put Christ back in Christmas that Christmas was banned in England under the Commonwealth (Cromwell’s Purtian Government)…


‘Forasmuch as the Feasts of The Nativity of Christ, Easter, Whitsuntide, and other Festivals, commonly called Holy-days, have been heretofore superstitiously used and observed: Be it Ordained, by the Lords and Commons in Parliament assembled, That the said Feasts of The Nativity of Christ, Easter, and Whitsuntide, and all other Festival-days commonly called Holy-days, be no longer observed as Festivals or Holidays, within this Kingdom of England and Dominion of Wales’–Commons Journal, Volume 9, 11 June 1647

Christmas was not only outlawed in the British Isles but in parts of colonial America, as well. In 1659, a law was passed by the Puritans of General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony requiring a five-shilling fine from anyone caught “observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way.

Christmas wasn’t a federal holiday in the US until 1870! Yes, Congress was in session on December 25, 1789, the first Christmas under America’s new constitution!

Strange as this may sound, Protestant Christians such as the Pilgrims, Puritans, Congregationalists, Quakers, Baptists, and Presbyterians did not celebrate Christmas. Some Christian sects still do not recognise Christmas as being Christian, such as Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Protestant Christians in New England during the seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries knew that the festivities, traditions, and trappings of Christmas were simply pagan celebrations covered with a Christian veneer. In addition, they were all too familiar with the Saturnalian misrule, disorder, and revelry associated with the mid-winter festivities and wanted to suppress it.

The problem is that Christians have been trying to co-opt the holiday since the Christian Church was established early in the fourth century. This was done to Christianise pagan mid-winter celebrations associated with the Saturnalia and birthday of Sol Invictus – the Sun god. But it didn’t end there! As Christianity spread into northern Europe, elements of the twelve day Scandinavian Yule festival to the god Thor and various other practices of the Germanic pagans were also incorporated into Christmas-time celebrations by the Roman Church.

“All of the incorporation of pagan traditions was done contrary to God’s clear instructions in Deuteronomy 12: 28-32, Jeremiah 10: 1-3, and Matthew 15: 3, 8-9.”

So get your Christ out of our “pagan rite to banish the cold and the dark”!

Thanks to White Rabbit.

Scotland and Christmas

As we Are getting ready for another bout of crazed Christians trying to get Christ back in Christmas, I am reminded of yet another attempt to ban the holiday due to it’s not being a “Christian Holiday”.

That is because while I am getting ready for St. Andrew’s Day, it hit me that there is the incongruity that my house is decorated for Christmas. Christmas was banned in Scotland for 400 years! For those not in the know, the Scots made the Puritans or Taliban look like Unitarians in terms of strict fundamentalism. John Knox banned Christmas in the 1580’s as it was seen to be either pagan or papist in origin. Unlike the English and New English Puritans, the ban was strictly enforced in law. That meant that Christmas was a fairly low key religious celebration (if celebrated at all). It wasn’t even a public holiday in Scotland until 1958. Prior to then, people worked normally on Christmas day, although the children did get presents. If you want to have a real traditional Scottish Christmas, you should go into work on Christmas day! In 1997/98 and 2001/2002 there were strikes at Scottish banks because the bank staff were getting English holidays rather than the Scottish ones which have more time off at New Year.

Hogmanay is the real celebration in Scotland, although I think that is far more pagan. In fact, one source says that Hogmanay is either Viking or Pagan in origin which indeed makes it incongruous that the Scots celebrate that. On the other hand, maybe it is because the holiday isn’t a pagan debasement of the Lord that the Scots tolerated it. It was just pure out pagan revelry, plain and simple without trying to dress it up in Jesus’ name!
One site about Hogmanay reiterates that thought

Why Hogmanay in Scotland is So Important

Although some of the Hogmanay Traditions are ancient, the celebrations were elevated in importance after the banning of Christmas in the 16th and 17th centuries. Under Oliver Cromwell, Parliament banned Christmas celebrations in 1647. The ban was lifted after Cromwell’s downfall in 1660. But in Scotland, the stricter Scottish Presbyterian Church had been discouraging Christmas celebrations – as having no basis in the Bible, from as early as 1583. After the Cromwellian ban was lifted elsewhere, Christmas festivities continued to be discouraged in Scotland. In fact, Christmas remained a normal working day in Scotland until 1958 and Boxing Day did not become a National Holiday until much later.

But the impulse to party, and to put the products of Scotland’s famous distilleries to good use, could not be repressed. In effect, Hogmany became Scotland’s main outlet for the mid-winter impulse to chase away the darkness with light, warmth and festivities.

Anyway, I am listening to Traditional English Pub Carols as I am writing this and thinking about the difference in Culture between north and south of the Border.  I’m glad to say that I am not the first to suffer from this incongruity as there was a rather famous personage who was important in raising awareness of both Christmas and Scotland.  And who was gonna tell her she couldn’t celebrate Christmas if she wanted?

The 12 Days of Christmas (not the Song)

Ever wonder what the Twelve Days of Christmas was about? Did you just think it was a very bizarre Christmas Carol?

Nope, it’s a very real event and it takes place from Christmas Day to Epiphany (the 6th of January). The feast of Epiphany is also known as Twelfth Night. Twelfth Night also signified the end of the feasting season that began on Halloween in Tudor times. Twelfth Night was the time when the world was turned crazy. On this day the King and all those who were high would become the peasants and vice versa. This feast was governed by the Lord of Misrule. Epiphany is seeing a comeback in the US because of Latino culture where it is known as el Dia de los Reyes Magos or Three Kings Day.

There is a question as to whether the twelve days of Christmas has fallen victim to the secularisation of society or to the Puritans. Either way, it is a custom that is pretty much forgotten in the US. British culture celebrates Boxing Day (26 December or St. Stephen’s Day) which is a national holiday in many Commonwealth nations. The Anglican Church and liturgical Calendar still has the verious feasts such as Childermas (the Feast of the Innocents) and Epiphany.

On the other hand, the traditions of the Twelve Days were adapted from the older pagan customs, in particular Saturnalia. The holiday falls firmly on the Winter Solstice in the Northern hemisphere. Many cultures in the Northern Hemisphere have performed solstice ceremonies since pre-historic times. At their root: an ancient fear that the failing light would never return unless humans intervened with anxious vigil or antic celebration. The Twelfth Night traditions of the Solstice also have an influence on modern day pantomime where traditional authority is mocked and the principal male lead is played by a woman, while the leading older female character, or ‘Dame’, is played by a man. It is this pagan influence and revelling that offended the puritans and led to them banning Christmas.

The Song “Carol of the Bells” is the Ukrainian carol called “Shchedryk”. The word “Shchedryk” means the “Generous One”. It refers to the god of generosity, the Dazh Boh – the Giver God, which is the sun. Dazh Boh’s feast was on the winter solstice; after all, that is when he started his return. With the coming of Christianity to Ukraine in 988, the people did not forget their ancient customs; they incorporated them into their new beliefs. To this day Ukrainians sing the “Shchedryk” during Christmas season.

But the 12 Days of Christmas can be either sacred or profane depending on your outlook and personality. Does one choose the holiday of the Romans or that of the High Church Anglican? Either way, it is a holiday which is firmly engrained in the Northern Cultures. It is a holiday that does not stop the day after Christmas, but continues until the Sun is revived.