Polemics & Exchanges

On Christmas

I am very sympathetic toward the central point and direction of Aaron D. Wolf’s “A Tender, Unitarian Christmas” (Views, December 2001), but I must register one significant complaint.  If we were trying to decide which historical group has been modernity’s favorite whipping boy, the Puritans would have to be in the front rank of contestants.  This alone should give Chronicles readers pause.

As a Puritan myself, and a thorough-going incarnationalist, and as one who has both read extensively in Puritan writings and written on them, I feel the need to take time away from my Christmas preparations to protest.  To cite just one counter-example on the supposed Puritan antipathy to an incarnational Christmas, the Puritan poetess Anne Bradstreet once wrote, in passing, about Christmas: “Through Christendom with great festivity / Now’s held (but guessed) for blest Nativity.”

There was a Puritan hostility to the common celebration of Christmas of that time.  The later Unitarian celebrations of Christmas were heretical, but at least they were decent.  Many of the earlier customs were “orthodox” but indecent, which provoked an honest reaction.  An important part of the Puritan problem with Christmas was the drunken way in which it was commonly celebrated. ...

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