Question: During Christmas
dinner I was told once that in the 17th century Massachusetts outlawed celebrating
Christmas? Was this in fact something
that occurred in Colonial America in Massachusetts?
Answer: You are correct in your Christmas dinner story.
The law was enacted by Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1659. It was published in Nathaniel B. Shurtleff,
M.D. Records of the Governor and Company
of the Massachusetts Bay in New England.
Printed by order of the Legislature. This volume is available at NEHGS for your review.
“For preventing disorders arising in several places within
this jurisdiction, by reason of some still observing such festivals as were
superstitiously kept in other countries, to the great dishonor of God and
offence of others, it is therefore ordered by this Court and the authority
thereof, that whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or
the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way, upon such
accounts as aforesaid, every such person so offending shall pay for every such
offence five shillings, as a fine to the country.” This remained on the books for
twenty-years. Christmas would ultimately
be made a legal holiday in Massachusetts
in the mid-19th century.