MassMoments reminds us on this Christmas morning that Christmas was not always “merry” in Massachusetts. On Christmas Day in 1659 – the Great and General Court of the then Massachusetts Bay Colony established a fine for anyone making merry or working on Christmas Day.
…in 1659, a law was passed by the General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony requiring a five-shilling fine from anyone caught “observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way.” Christmas Day was deemed by the Puritans to be a time of seasonal excess with no Biblical authority. The law was repealed in 1681 along with several other laws, under pressure from the government in London. It was not until 1856 that Christmas Day became a state holiday in Massachusetts. For two centuries preceding that date, the observance of Christmas — or lack thereof — represented a cultural tug of war between Puritan ideals and British tradition.
An 1856 Massachusetts law accorded this status to Christmas, Washington’s Birthday, and July 4th. The success of this measure was due to the growing number of Irish Catholics in the electorate. Public offices were also to be closed on these days, and it was expected that businesses would follow suit. In time they did. Early in the twenty-first century, December 25th remains one of the few days that the nation’s economic engine is still.