pilgrims going to church painting
You'll notice no one is wearing a Santa hat.

You’re probably familiar with the "War on Christmas," the perceived erasure of Christian influence in American culture around the holiday season.

It seems like every year there’s a new front in this war, whether that’s Starbucks’ holiday cups not being Christmasy enough, the growing popularity of the greeting "Happy Holidays", or this year’s outrage du jour, the Hallmark Channel debuting their first holiday romcom with gay leads. 

In many ways, the War on Christmas is its own little American tradition. But did you know it's also a Christian tradition? And one that goes back a long way, as it turns out.

Indeed, the first assault on Christmastime was not masterminded by sinister atheists hoping to erase Christianity, or ‘woke’ corporations bowing to public pressure to be politically correct… but by the Puritans.

This is the story of the original War on Christmas.

An Ancient Tradition

Raucous December revelry dates back to ancient times, and many pagan cultures celebrated the winter solstice with bonfires, feasts, and drunken singalongs. Yule, as they called it, was basically the ultimate office holiday party, just without Gary in accounting hitting up the karaoke machine (thank the gods).

When Christianity began competing against paganism across Europe, Christians “borrowed” many of those customs, and over time the old pagan traditions were folded into the new Christmas holiday. As Christianity spread far and wide, so too did many Christmas traditions.

The technology may be different, and the food is probably better, but the Christmases of 17th century England were not that different than they are today. Feasts, drinks, family, gifts – it was all there in some form or another.

All through December, lords and commoners alike looked forward to the most wonderful time of the year. Everyone loved it!

No Holly, No Jolly

Well, okay, not everyone. Across the pond, those famous sourpusses, the Puritans, despised Christmas with a tenacity that makes the grinch seem like a jolly holiday spirit in comparison.

Early Puritan settlers saw Christmas as an affront to God, outlawed the holiday, and doled out fines to anyone who dared celebrate. 

An official ban was enacted in 1659, and one just needs to look at the book of laws in Massachusetts Bay Colony to see how seriously anti-Christmas sentiment was taken:

“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 accountants as aforesaid, every person so offending shall pay of every such offence five shillings, as a fine to the county.”

Why Ban Christmas?

As it turns out, the Puritans were well aware of Christmas’s pagan origins and they considered the holiday to be a shocking example of heresy and idolatry. They wanted nothing to do with continuing "impure" traditions that had pagan roots. 

A Massachusetts reverend named Increase Mather is quoted on the subject in 1687. Mather wrote:

“The early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.”

So what did the Puritans do on Christmas? Work, pray, go to church, be chaste, pray some more… Safe to say they definitely were not hanging stockings by the fire with care in hopes that Saint Nicholas would soon be there. And don’t even think about mistletoe.

A Comeback Story

In the end, however, the spirit of Christmas proved too powerful a foe for the Puritans. The ban only lasted until 1681, when it was repealed.

Despite its pagan origins, they likely realized that having a holiday celebration in December was important to keep people's spirits up through the dark of winter. 

Interestingly, Christmas later fell out of favor again following the American Revolution, as it was largely viewed as an English custom. It wasn't until the mid-1800s that it experienced a resurgence in popularity.

The "original War on Christmas" officially ended in 1870, when Christmas was formally made a national holiday in the U.S.

In many ways, the War on Christmas is part of America’s religious heritage. So the next time someone makes a stink because you said "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas", remember: it’s tradition!


  1. Susan Colmenares's Avatar Susan Colmenares

    People all over the world observe holidays in December. Who cares which ones? Happy holidays to all!

  1. Rev. Barry's Avatar Rev. Barry

    Christmas is a nice story based on a Pagan ritual.The Christian equivalent. Happy Holidays !

  1. Susan Colmenares's Avatar Susan Colmenares

    People all over the world observe holidays in December. Who cares which ones? Happy holidays to all!

  1. Patricia Ihnat Hughes's Avatar Patricia Ihnat Hughes

    I have a quite holiday on any of the holidays the U.S.A comes up with. I don't have children or any one else to celebrate with. So I don't bother with holidays of any sort . Jesus Christ wasn't born on the 25th of December. No one knows when he was born. And of course people get his death day and Resurrection day wrong also. Any more any holiday is just another excuse to spend money we don't have and get drunk and argue with the ones we say we love . Give a gift at anytime of the year. Smile if you want. Just make shore the government hasn't taxed that eithe

    1. Ealdormon Piparskeggr Robinson's Avatar Ealdormon Piparskeggr Robinson

      It has just been my wife and I since we wed in June 1982. Did not have children as we were both in dangerous jobs in the USAF and did not want to bring children into that uncertainty. We have our own quiet observances of any Holiday.

  1. Asger's Avatar Asger

    HAPPY YULE NACHT!! May the Gods be with you.

  1. Nicholas J Page's Avatar Nicholas J Page

    Never heard of war at Christmastime

    1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

      @Nicholas J Page It's fanatic evangelical Christians, (only in the Untied States) who believe they have the God given right to violate the US Constitution and US laws to impose their Christian beliefs are under attack by non-Christians and people of other faith. The Christians, (no one else) calls it the war on Christmas to because war is so vile and Christmas is so holy it good PR.

      The relativity is the Christians don't want to obey the laws and when they get caught do so they make an issue out of it. This is just another reason young people today do not want to have anything to do with the Christian religion. Every year the number of people who say they are Christian continues to decrease. Last year we saw a huge in crease in the number of people who say they aren't Christian anymore.

      1. David Cox's Avatar David Cox

        Comment removed by user.

  1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

    Starbucks (and other businesses) war on Christmas is all about maximizing profits. There are so many Americans who are NOT Christian these days they have found they are making money money dropping the Christmas themed products. There just aren't enough Christians anymore buy product. Capitalism always wins out over the Christian Religion.

  1. Bishop William Dusenberry, DD's Avatar Bishop William Dusenberry, DD

    The Christian New Year was a compromise (worked out arrangement) between the British Empire, and the Italian pope.

    January 1st was the result -- the British Empire need a worldwide Calander -- so that British merchant ships, would be expected, on certain days -- which were selected by Christians -- to try to ensure, the British ships wouldn't have to be unloaded on some religious holiday or other.

    X-Mas -- it was decided, should happen on the first day of winter -- so that there would be plenty of pine trees (now X-Mas trees) available to sell to the sheeple.

    No one knows what happened -- or if it involved the birth of a Jesus, or not -- so the X-Mas story was concocted, so that non-Christian merchants could make fortunes selling worthless junk to otherwise starving sheeple.

    And the Catholic Church controlled the whole Christian myth -- for the most part.

    Read Gibbon's "The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire -- to find out how the deplorables, and the rabble destroyed what was then left of the Roman Empire

  1. Rev. MichaelRS's Avatar Rev. MichaelRS

    Try to convince the people in this community (link below) that there's no "War on Christmas" or Christianity.

    I for one would like to know just who it was that made the decision. I don't live there, so I won't say I have a right to know, but the people in that community certainly do


  1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher


  1. Pastor Jody S.'s Avatar Pastor Jody S.

    This reminds me of the line from the Bill Murray movie "Stripes":

    "Our ancestors were kicked out of every decent country..."

    No one really likes a "spoilsport", and the Puritans pretty much led the league in that department

    I say, let's just have a feast, drink and be merry, and wish each other "Good will to all, and Peace On Earth".

    No matter what our faiths might be!

  1. Rev Frankie PG's Avatar Rev Frankie PG

    While attending Christian Academies as a child there were many controversial speakers, such as one that emphasized this very subject. It was a message though of how we shall celebrate Christmas without all of the hoopla and rather the concentration of the Lord's birth, in other words a birthday party at the most. Through the years, as I've become more developed, I've learned the lesson of restricting yourself. I celebrate Christmas these days, not only with all of the hoopla but also with the main concentration that it is about the Lord Jesus' birth. You'll never see me say the holiday greeting that replaces Jesus' name with an X, as a matter of fact I have stopped my support of businesses when they do such. At work I do say Happy Holidays because there are many more than just Christmas.

    1. David Arthur Lewis's Avatar David Arthur Lewis

      Oh Rev. Frankie, you misunderstand. That is NOT an 'X'. It is actually the Greek letter Chi, which has been the abbreviation for the name of Christ for over a thousand years. All Christian churches that pre-date the English Civil War use that abbreviation for Christ's name. Some Catholic priests even wear the symbol on their cassocks. Many Christians feel it is more respectful to use the Chi symbol than to overuse the name of their Lord. Jesus might advise against being so judgmental. Merry Christmas, Good Yule, and Happy Hanukkah!

    2. Shirley Ann McKinney's Avatar Shirley Ann McKinney

      Yes to you

  1. Eric D Peck's Avatar Eric D Peck

    In Massachusetts Bay colony there is to be no superstitiously kept festivals, lest we have no time to identify and persecute witches! Verily so!

  1. Stewart Ronk's Avatar Stewart Ronk

    It would be nice to have the SOURCES for your information cited. And it would be nice to know if the Puritans had an opinion about when Christ was born (his birthday), and whatever they believed about the date, whether or not they thought it meet to observe, maybe even to "celebrate" his day. But I suspect they were more tempermentally drawn to observing Christ's death day ("Good" Friday), though it does have a way of migrating around in April and (sometimes) in late March. To be fair, the Puritans seem to have been down on any sort of joyful celebration. Or maybe it was just on any CHRISTIAN joyful celebration, which I gather they thought were all bogus, maybe even the work of the devil.

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