I love Christmas, and it’s not just because of my name. I wasn’t born on Christmas but was told by my mother I was a twinkle in my father’s eye that year. My birthday proves it. I think the reason I like the season so much is that despite the world’s woes, and there are many this year, there is still joy and anticipation. Plus I do love giving gifts. Selecting the right ones is my idea of fun.
This year I plan to write some posts about the history of Christmas, the way in which it is celebrated in different countries. a book review of Home for Christmas (which will first appear on Rosie Amber), and other ‘stuff.’
I can start by telling you that the Pilgrims did NOT celebrate Christmas. How’s that for a downer?
The Pilgrims strongly believed that the Church of England, and the Catholic Church, had both strayed from Christ’s true teachings in their established religious rituals, church hierarchies, leading to their first label as the Separatists. While they were still in England, before their exodus to Holland, they used a printing press to print and illegally distribute Separatist books. One of these books rejecting Christmas got Elder Brewster into hot water with the King of England, who confiscated their printing press.
The Pilgrims did strictly honor the Sabbath, not doing any labor on Sunday; their services last from 9 AM to noon and from 2-5 PM, and they studied the works of Martin Luther and John Calvin. In the Plimoth Colony, their church was the bottom floor of the fort at the top of Leyden Street on Burial Hill. Isaac de Rasieres, who visited Plymouth in 1627, reported how the Pilgrim’s began their church on Sunday: “They assemble by beat of drum, each with his musket or firelock, in front of the captain’s door; they have their cloaks on, and place themselves in order, three abreast, and are led by a sergeant without beat of drum. Behind comes the governor, in a long robe; beside him on the right hand, comes the preacher with his cloak on, and on the left hand, the captain with his side-arms and cloak on, and with a small cane in his hand; and so they march in good order, and each sets his arms down near him.” The sexes were separated in the church, with the women and children on one side, the men on the other. The men always brought their muskets to church; you could be fined 12 pence if you failed to do so.
So the Pilgrims did not celebrate Christmas and Easter. They believed that these holidays were a human invention to memorialize Jesus, were not illuminated in the Bible nor celebrated by early Christian churches. Therefore they could not be considered Holy days. John Robinson, their first pastor, taught, “It seems too much for any mortal man to appoint, or make an anniversary memorial [for Christ].”