Which U.S. city banned christmas in 1659?

According to historical records, the city of Boston in the United States banned Christmas celebrations in 1659. This ban was due to the strong Puritan influence in the city at that time.

The Puritans, also known as the Pilgrims, were a group of English Protestants who believed that Christmas had pagan origins and therefore should not be celebrated. They viewed Christmas as a time of excess, drunkenness and immorality, which went against their strict religious beliefs.

The ban on Christmas in Boston was not an isolated incident, but rather part of a larger movement seeking to abolish the holiday. However, it is believed that Boston was the first city in the United States to officially ban Christmas celebrations.

Which U.S. city banned christmas in 1659?
Which U.S. city banned christmas in 1659?

So why did the Puritans view Christmas as a pagan holiday and ultimately decide to ban it? Let’s delve into the history of Christmas and the Puritan beliefs to understand the reasoning behind this controversial decision.

The Origins of Christmas

The origins of Christmas can be traced back to ancient pagan celebrations such as Saturnalia, which was a festival dedicated to the Roman god Saturn. It was celebrated from December 17th to December 23rd and involved feasting, gift-giving and the lighting of candles.

In the early centuries of Christianity, there was no specific date for celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. It wasn’t until the fourth century that Pope Julius I declared December 25th as the official date for Christmas. This was likely done in an attempt to incorporate and replace pagan celebrations with Christian ones.

Over time, Christmas became a widely celebrated holiday in Europe and eventually made its way to the American colonies. However, not everyone embraced the holiday with open arms.

The Puritan Beliefs

The Puritans saw themselves as true followers of Christianity and believed in strict adherence to biblical teachings. They were critical of what they perceived as corrupt practices within the Church of England and sought to create a pure form of Christianity.

The Puritans believed that all aspects of life should be guided by the Bible, including religious celebrations. So when Christmas came around, they saw it as a time of sinful indulgences rather than a celebration of Jesus’ birth. In their eyes, the holiday had become too commercialized and had lost its true meaning.

The Ban on Christmas in Boston

In 1659, the Puritan-led government of Massachusetts Bay Colony passed a law banning Christmas celebrations. The official document stated that “anybody who is found observing, by abstinence from labor, feasting or any other way, any such day as Christmas day shall pay for every such offense five shillings.”

The ban also extended to other holidays such as Easter and Whitsunday, which were seen as having pagan roots as well. However, Christmas was the main target of the Puritans due to its widespread popularity.

The penalty for breaking this law was significant at the time, especially considering that five shillings could buy a week’s worth of food. This was a clear indication of how serious the Puritans were about their beliefs and the actions they were willing to take to uphold them.

The Reaction to the Ban

Unsurprisingly, the ban on Christmas was met with strong opposition from many people in Boston. This included non-Puritan residents who saw it as an infringement on their religious freedom.

One notable figure who spoke out against the ban was Increase Mather, a Puritan minister who believed that the ban would only lead to further resentment and rebellion among the people. He argued that it was not up to the government to dictate how individuals expressed their faith.

Despite this opposition, the ban remained in place for 22 years until 1681 when Charles II became king and restored religious freedom in the colonies. Christmas celebrations were then allowed once again in Boston.

Legacy of the Ban

The ban on Christmas in Boston may seem like a distant memory, but it has left a lasting impact on American culture. It is believed that the Puritan influence contributed to the lack of enthusiasm for Christmas in early America and the slow adoption of certain holiday traditions.

Even today, there are remnants of the ban on Christmas in Boston. For example, the city still refers to its annual tree lighting ceremony as a “holiday tree” rather than a “Christmas tree.” This is seen by some as a nod to the Puritan history of the city.


In conclusion, the ban on Christmas in Boston was a result of the strong Puritan beliefs and their rejection of what they saw as pagan influences in the holiday. While this ban may seem extreme to us now, it was a reflection of the strict religious standards and values held by the Puritans.

Today, Christmas is widely celebrated in the United States and around the world, but it’s important to remember its controversial past and how it has shaped our cultural traditions.

So, it can be said that the ban on Christmas in Boston serves as a reminder of the complexity and evolution of religious beliefs and traditions.

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