The Time New England Banned Christmas

For 22 years, Bostonians who wished a fellow colonist so much as a "Merry Christmas" would have to shell out five shillings for flaunting their Yuletide spirit. On May 11, 1659, Puritanical theocrats brought the hammer down on Christmas celebrations, enacting a political ban on the holiday and charging fines to Christmas sympathizers. The records of the Massachusetts Bay Colony's general court shed some light on just how the Puritans managed to shutter holiday celebrations, stating:

...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 any such account as aforesaid, every such person so offending shall pay for every such offence five shilling as a fine to the county.

The ban, enacted to put the kibosh on general holiday rowdiness—Reverend Increase Mather (pictured above), a New Englander and father of Salem Witch Trials figurehead Cotton Mather, denounced the holiday season as "consumed in Compotations, in Interludes, in playing at Cards, in Revellings, in excess of Wine, in Mad Mirth"—held steady through 1681.

Christmas customs prior to the ban were a little more unruly than hanging wreaths and caroling. One popular tradition, called wassailing, involved lower class colonists demanding food and drink from citizens of wealthier stature in exchange for toasting their good health. If denied, proceedings often got violent.

Though Christmas wasn't officially banned until 1659, journals from the Puritans' first Christmas in the colony illustrate that the number of settlers who celebrated Christmas was split. By the second Christmas—after a sickness-plagued year—the holiday was already unofficially prohibited.

Puritan rule, which banned seasonal delicacies like mince pies and pudding, decreed working on Christmas as mandatory and dispatched town criers on Christmas Eve to shout "No Christmas, No Christmas" through the streets of Boston. The outlawing of Christmas was also a regional, purely Puritanian restriction—farther south, Jamestown settler John Smith reported that Christmas was "enjoyed by all and passed without incident."

Christmas returned to the Massachusetts Colony in 1681—sort of. When newly appointed royal governor Sir Edmund Andros (who also turned back a Puritan ban on Saturday night activities) sponsored and attended Christmas services in 1686, he was heavily guarded by a regiment of redcoats. 

Bostonian judge Samuel Sewall kept a chronicle of how Christmas was celebrated in his native colony, noting that celebrations remained sparse. Wrote Sewall in a 1685 diary entry: "Carts come to Town and Shops open as is usual." Working was no longer a necessity on Christmas Day, but had become a staple after a 22-year lack of Yuletide traditions. 

Celebrating Christmas in Boston stayed out of vogue through the mid-1800s; public school students caught skipping class on Christmas Day in 1869, the year before Ulysses S. Grant named Christmas a national holiday, still risked expulsion. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow put a poetic spin on Boston's Christmas cold spell in 1858, acknowledging the Puritanical footprint left on New England's holiday spirit.

We are in a transition state about Christmas here in New England. The old Puritan feeling prevents it from being a cheerful hearty holiday; though every year makes it more so.

In 1938, The New York Times Thought Cheeseburgers Were a Weird New Fad

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iStock

People love to make fun of The New York Times's trend section: Their umpteen pieces on the Millennial craze have been called "hate-reads," and their dissection of cultural norms such as oversharing, defriending people in real life, and chopped salad at lunch as "trends" can be hilarious and infuriatingly obvious.

But while their pieces aren't always exactly timely, they will certainly make for interesting reads in a few decades—just like this throwback piece on a California fad called "cheeseburgers" from 1938.

When "cheeseburger" was first mentioned in the October 1938 article, it was in a long list about the "whimsy" of California eateries. Then, nine years later in May 1947, the Times revisited the fad, writing, "At first, the combination of beef with cheese and tomatoes, which sometimes are used, may seem bizarre." Fortunately, their intrepid reporter could see the bigger picture. "If you reflect a bit, you’ll understand the combination is sound gastronomically."

Now, 80 years after the paper with all the news that's fit to print took notice of the trend, you can not only ask for gourmet cheeses like brie, goat, or gorgonzola on your burger—or spend upwards of $300 on one—there are multiple burger chains where you can order stacks on stacks on stacks of cheeseburger patties.

That weird little West Coast fad has become a multi-billion dollar industry, and cheeseburgers are practically our national food (arguably in hot contention with apple pie) with their very own holiday: National Cheeseburger Day (which is today). Congratulations, America! We did it!

Amazon Will Deliver a 7-Foot Christmas Tree to Your Door This Holiday Season

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iStock

We're still technically in the dregs of summer, but Amazon is already thinking about Christmas. The online retail giant has just announced it will be giving customers the chance to skip the annual trip to the Christmas tree farm this holiday season and order live trees online instead, the Associated Press reports.

Amazon has previously sold live Christmas trees that topped out around three feet, with larger trees available on the site through third-party vendors. This year the company is establishing itself as a major player in the real Christmas tree market. Beginning in November, Amazon shoppers will have their choice of buying Balsam firs, Black Hills spruces, or Norfolk Island pines directly from the company. The tallest offering, a seven-foot Fraser fir, will sell for $115.

All of Amazon's trees will be wrapped up and delivered within 10 days of being chopped down, which should mean they'll still be alive upon arrival. As is the case with other Amazon products, the trees will be shipped in cardboard boxes. Some will even be eligible for free, two-day shipping for Amazon Prime members—just in case you're the kind of person who decorates their home for the holidays at the very last minute. And if you're someone who likes to get all of that holiday shopping out of the way early, Amazon will also offer pre-orders.

As for the possibility that independent Christmas tree farms will be the next industry brought down by online retail, tree farmers aren't worried. The National Christmas Tree Association told the AP that it estimates only about one to two percent of all live trees purchased for the holidays last year were ordered online.

[h/t AP]

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