Raw Story: When English Puritans outlawed Christmas in 1647, it was not without good reason. When American Puritans, in turn, outlawed Christmas in Massachusetts between 1659 and 1681, it too was not without good reason.
Christmas past was anything but innocent. Until the mid-19th century, Christmas was a time for drunkenness and debauchery.
Men dressed like women, women dressed like men, servants dressed like masters, boys dressed like bishops, everyone else either dressed as animals or wore blackface – all to subvert the godly order in the safety of anonymity.
No wonder the Puritans wanted it banned.
The Origins of Christmas Revelry
It was not until the 4th century that the Church of Rome recognised December 25 as the date to celebrate the birth of the messiah. And it did so knowing well that there were no biblical or historical reasons to place Christ’s birth on that day.
There is some evidence the Romans worshipped Sol Invictus, their sun god, on December 25. But what the Romans really celebrated during the month of December was Saturnalia, an end of harvest festival that concluded with the winter solstice.
As historian Stephen Nissenbaum pointed out in his acclaimed The Battle for Christmas, the early Church entered into a compromise: in exchange for widespread celebration of the birth of Christ, it permitted the traditions of Saturnalia to continue in the name of the saviour.
Gambling, as seen here in a fresco from Pompeii, was a hallmark of the Roman celebration of Saturnalia. Read more…