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A Christmas law passed in Massachusetts in 1659.

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David Allen Lambert

David Allen Lambert
NEHGS Online Genealogist

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.

Posted by David Lambert at 12/28/2010 11:53:23 PM | 

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