This is the second of three posts on Christmas history that is copied from Focus On The Family in the Pastor To Pastor series, tape number 26. The title of the tape is “Christmas Then & Now: Holiday History.” The link to part one is at the end of this post.
In 1659 a decree was issued that formally banned the observance of Christmas with the penalty of five shillings.
In 1706 a Puritan mob broke windows in the Kings Chapel in Boston because Anglican worshippers were holding Christmas services.
On Christmas day in 1712 minister Cotton Mather lashed out at his congregation saying, “Can you in your conscious think that our Holy Savior by mad mirth, by long eating, by hard drinking, and by lewd gaming? If you will yet go on and do such things, I forewarn you that the burning wrath of God will break forth among you.”
In 1739 the Great Awakening began, but did not help the pro-Christmas forces.
In 1741 George Fredrick Handle composed the Messiah in three and one half weeks.
In 1742 Handle conducted the first public performance of the music without which no modern Christmas would seem complete.
A public performance of the Messiah was heard in New York City at a sacred music concert in 1770.
In 1776 the men and women of early colonial America kept the Christmas spirit alive often under the most difficult circumstances. The desperate soldiers of the Continental Army, led by General George Washington, spent their Christmas eve preparing a blow for liberty that saved the young nation. When they crossed the Delaware River and took the British enemy by surprise it was an important turning point in the American Revolution.
Around the year 1800 New York’s Anglican Churches began decorating with evergreen bushes on Christmas day.
In 1812 the Quaker Newspaper chastised the Pennsylvania Legislature for adjourning for a two week holiday for Christmas. It claimed that they were wasting the taxpayers money to draw $3.00 a day for eating Christmas pies.
The Christmas tree and it’s many decorations received it’s first mention in the new world in 1821 in a Pennsylvania diary
In 1827 Bishop Chase of Massachusetts lamented, “The Devil has stolen from us Christmas and converted it into a day of worldly festivities, shooting, and swearing.”
In 1838 the Poinsettia was adopted as the Christmas flower. At least as early as the 1700’s Mexicans called the plant “Flower of the Blessed Night” because of it’s resemblance to the star of Bethlehem. This is the first association between the plant and Christmas. Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, brought the plant into the states where it was renamed in his honor. By the time of his death in 1851, the Poinsettia’s flaming red color had already established it’s Christmas association.
In 1836 Alabama was the first state in the Union to take official notice of Christmas and it was not until 1890 that the Oklahoma Territory followed suit.
In 1840 the Great Revival had been going on for years, but it did not help Christmas.