Wednesday December 20, 2017

Christmas banned? The unknown, forgotten and surprising history of this holiday tradition

'The only war on Christmas that we know of has been waged by the Christian church,' says Judith Flanders, author of Christmas: A Biography.

'The only war on Christmas that we know of has been waged by the Christian church,' says Judith Flanders, author of Christmas: A Biography. (pixabay.com)

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While Fox News has been promoting the idea that there's a war on Christmas in America today, author Judith Flanders says there really was a war on Christmas — but not the one pushed by the network.

"The only war on Christmas that we know of has been waged by the Christian church," says Flanders, who wrote the new book, Christmas: A Biography. 

Christmas banned

'Celebrating Christmas, according to Puritan belief, was anti-Christian' - Judith Flanders


"There had been a war on Christmas in the 17th century when ... the Puritan elements of the Christians church decided that since there is no mention of Christmas in the Bible, there is no scriptural reference to Christmas; therefore it wasn't a real thing. And celebrating Christmas was, according to Puritan belief, anti-Christian."

Santa Claus

'Celebrating Christmas, according to Puritan belief, was anti-Christian,' says Flanders. (pixabay.com)

So for 20 years, Christmas in North America and Britain was banned. 

'It makes Christmas ever more secular'

The decision to ban Christmas did not have the intended effect the devout Puritans had hoped for, according to Flanders.

'Those religious people who had observed Christmas by going to church said, 'OK, we will go to the pub instead.'' - Judith Flanders

"It makes Christmas ever more secular," says Flanders, a native of Montreal, now living in London, who has gone back over the history of Christmas to its earliest days.

"Those religious people who had observed Christmas by going to church said, 'OK, we will go to the pub instead. We'll go to the tavern. We'll do excessive feasting and dancing.'"

Xmas tree

For 20 years, Christmas in North America and Britain was banned, according to Flanders. (pixabay.com)

The Scottish church and Christmas

'Scotland is the only place on earth, where for a quarter of a millennium, Christmas was banned.' - Judith Flanders

And while Christmas was unbanned in England and North America, that was not the case for centuries in Scotland.

 "The Scottish Kirk, the church, did not approve of Christmas and so they managed to reban it in 1690," Flanders tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

"And then somehow, oops, they forgot to unban it, and it stayed banned until 1958. So as far as I know, Scotland is the only place on earth, where for a quarter of a millennium, Christmas was banned."

Present 2

Scotland is the only place on earth that for a quarter of a millennium Christmas was banned, says Flanders. (pixabay.com)

 'It holds people together' - Judith Flanders

Flanders says that while Christmas has changed in many ways over the centuries, there is a constant longing for a better past and a perfect Christmas. 

"It's the feeling of community that is given by this constant sense of renewal and looking backwards. It sounds contradictory, but I think that really it holds people together."


This segment was produced by The Current's Howard Goldenthal.