-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
It’s that time of year again. That time when many Christians imagine themselves persecuted by a secular “War on Christmas.” Interestingly, the “War on Christmas” has Christian roots. Pilgrims, who were strict Puritans, believed that “[t]hey for whom all days are holy can have no holiday.” Those holidays also included Christmas and Easter. Thanksgiving to the Pilgrims would have not been a holy day.
The Puritans saw Christmas as a pagan holiday, co-opted by the Roman Catholic Church, from the birthday of the sun god Mithra, which occurred on the winter solstice on December 21. Apples were added to Christmas trees, later to become ornaments, to represent the Garden of Eden. Pagan wreaths of holly were said to represent of the crown of thorns worn by Jesus at his crucifixion.
In 1645, Puritans in the English Parliament got Christmas eliminated as a national holiday. When Puritans came to Massachusetts, they continued their boycott of the Christmas holiday for decades. The boycott applied to non-Puritans as well. When a group of non-Puritan workers were found playing sports in celebration of Christmas, Gov. William Bradford took away their sporting implements and told them “there should be no gaming, or revelling in the streets.”
In 1710, Cotton Mather, a politically influential Puritan minister, now best known from the Salem witch trials, told his flock: “the feast of Christ’s nativity is spent in reveling, dicing, carding, masking, and in all licentious liberty…by mad mirth, by long eating, by hard drinking, by lewd gaming, by rude reveling!”
While the Pilgrims’ independence and work ethic is represented as an ideal of America, the religious tolerance present in today’s America and enshrined in the First Amendment, would have been unthinkable to the Pilgrims.
The contradistinction between the top four, of the Ten Commandments, and the freedom of religious expression guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, gives lie to the claim that this country was founded on Christian principles.