Christmas in Colonial America wasn’t always festive

Christmas in Colonial America wasn’t always festive

CHRISTMAS IN COLONIAL TIMES: The festivities weren't always so bright in early America. Photo:

Christmas in America has become a mixture of both secular and religious themes, a time of joy, gratitude and celebration.

But in Colonial times, it was a different story.

Surprisingly little is known about how early Americans celebrated Christmas.

That’s because historians of the day spent their time chronicling politics and wars, not holidays.

But it is known that the early settlers of Virginia, Maryland and Georgia brought English customs with them, while in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania the traditions of Holland, Sweden and Germany were carried on.

In New England, Christmas was long frowned upon. The Puritans associated it with the Church of England and the old-world customs they were escaping, including feasting, drinking and playing games.

Christmas and other holiday celebrations were banned in Massachusetts from 1659 until 1681. A law was passed declaring that anyone who observed a holiday would be fined five shillings.

The first state to declare Christmas a legal holiday was Alabama, in 1836.

Recent Headlines

in Local

Cortlandville man, upset after hearing, rams cars in courthouse parking lot


David Southwick, 49, faces 16 felonies, 3 misdemeanors, after driving truck into vehicles in Cortland County courthouse parking lot Monday

in Local

Former Assembly Speaker Silver guilty at federal corruption trial

sheldon silver

Long-time State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was convicted of all seven counts in federal corruption trial in Manhattan; Silver will lose Assembly seat

in Local

Gillibrand visits Freeville, talks small business growth


The New York senator used Incodema3D as an example of a business that needs federal capital to expand and succeed.

in Local

Feds want 300-year sentence for woman involved in kidnapping


Nicole Vaisey admitted to involvement in kidnapping of two Amish girls, sexual exploitation of six children; Vaisey, Stephen Howells to be sentenced in Dec.

in Local

30-year State Police vet becomes highest-ranking woman in force

State Police

Patricia Groeber is new first deputy superintendent of New York State Police; she becomes highest-ranking woman in 98-year history of State Police