Who started the “War on Christmas”?
In researching his book, “Christmas: A Candid History,” Forbes discovered that major American denominations–Presbyterians, Baptists, Quakers, Methodists and Congregationalists–either ignored the holiday or actively discouraged it until the late 19th century.
That rejection was rooted in the lack of biblical sanction for Dec. 25 as the date of Jesus’ birth, as well as suspicion toward traditions that developed after the earliest days of Christianity. In colonial New England, this disapproval extended to actually making the holiday illegal, with celebration punishable by a fine.
“Some somehow observe the day,” wrote Boston Puritan Samuel Sewall on Christmas Day 1685, “but are vexed, I believe, that the body of people profane it, and blessed be God no authority yet compels them to keep it.”
Some 322 years later, Sewall might be surprised to see his congregation — today known as Old South Church — proudly displaying a decorated Christmas tree outside the church.