Regardless of which holiday you celebrate – Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali, the Winter Solstice, all of the above, or simply a secular celebration of joy– there’s something magical about this time of year. Taunton, Massachusetts, my hometown and the setting for Iron & Fire, is often known as “The Christmas City.” Every year since 1914, the lights on the Green have reminded us of everything we have to be thankful for. Attending the annual Lights On ceremony in December is one of the highlights of my year, and now I love bringing my own children to see the lights and decorations, and to stroll down Main St. with a hot cocoa while singing Christmas carols.
But did you know that Christma used to be illegal in New England?
Puritan Minister Cotton Mather preached that Christmas celebrations were an abomination, and that Christmas was placed in December not because, “Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian.” He sounds like a fun guy, right? Gov. William Bradford (yep, that guy. The Pilgrim.) went so far as to take toys and instruments away from children celebrating the holiday in 1621 (Yee), and Massachusetts Bay colony outlawed Christmas altogether in 1659, declaring that anyone found “feasting” or celebrating in any other way would be subject to a fine of 5 shillings (Klein).
A fine? For spreading holiday cheer?
This is the New England in which Verity Parker found herself living during the Christmas season of 1675. Having spent the first seventeen Christmases of her life in London, where the season was celebrated with wine, wassail, and merrymaking since the Restoration, Verity finds Christmas in the new world dreary and bleak. She longs for her childhood, when she’d sit in her father’s bookshop, reading Christmas stories and drinking hot mulled wine.
Enjoy this holiday season!
Klein, Christopher. “When Massachusetts Banned Christmas – HISTORY.” History.com, 22 December 2015.
Yee, Erica. “The Plymouth Colony governor confiscated toys from Pilgrims on Christmas Day.” Boston.com, 25 December 2017.