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Christmas Commentary – No.10, The Pilgrim Fathers

18/12/2011

In my ‘Christmas Commentary’ series, I have tried to present a balance between those who kept and promoted the Christmas holiday, and those who were concerned that it was a distraction from true religion, or that it was not commanded by Scripture, or that it was an excuse for excess. Now, even among those who support and keep the holiday today, many will admit that for the majority of the population, Christmas is little more than an excuse for spending, drinking and revelry. Some might argue that we would be better off without such a festival than to dishonour Christ’s birth with an excuse for blatant hedonism. Thus it was that the Pilgrim Fathers, the founders of Modern America, (Congregationalists) allowed no Christmas Day celebrations…

On the day called Christmas Day, the Governor called them out to work as was used. But the most part of this new company excused themselves and said that it went against their consciences to work on that day. So the Governor told them that if they made it a matter of conscience, he would spare them till they were better informed; so he led away the rest and left them. But when they came home at noon from their work, they found them in the street at play, openly; some pitching the bar, and some at stool-ball and such like sports. So he went to them and took away their implements and told them that was against his conscience, that they should play and others work. If they made the keeping of it a matter of devotion, let them keep their houses; but there should be no gaming or revelling in the streets. Since which time nothing hath been attempted that way, at least openly.

William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation (Samuel Eliot Morison, ed.; New York: Alfred Knopf, 1979), p. 97.

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The Pilgrim Fathers on-board ship.

From → Preachers, Puritans

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