I learned something this week, and I found it interesting. (This really will be my last post, at least this year, on the “celebrate / don’t celebrate” question.)
Historian David Hackett Fischer (Paul Revere’s Ride) says Puritans were scandalised that French Huguenots (such as Paul Revere’s father) in New England observed Christmas — Puritans objected to the observance and the word. A Boston magistrate rebuked a man for “partaking with the French Church on the 25 December on account of its being Christmas-day, as they abusively call it.”
These two Calvinist groups with similar doctrine differed, and some Puritan opposition was to the name (though often, their objection was that every day is the Lord’s, so no day should be set aside for particular observances).
Huguenots suffered far worse persecution from Catholics than English Puritans, and would have rejected anything they thought was Catholic. Yet, they still celebrated a day which at home they had called “Noël.” They did not view it as a Catholic observance, perhaps in part because that name had no ancient Catholic connotations.
I wonder how much opposition among English-speaking people is and has been based on the name “Christmas.” As we’ve seen, doctrine by etymology is unbiblical, but if you want to observe the day but don’t like the word, you could always adopt a suggestion I heard once and call it “Immanuel’s Day.”
Just to clarify, it was Judge Samuel Sewall, not “a Boston magistrate,” who rebuked a fellow Bostonian for his participation in the “French Church’s” adherence to Christmas.
This is recorded, along with almost everything else he did in his long life, in his journal, which is an important primary historical document of the American colonial era in New England.
For more on Sewall, with all the caveats about wiki-research, see:
a.k.a. Mistress Elizabeth de la Rue
Hello, Elizabeth / Donna, thanks for the comment. I suppose I can understand why Fischer called Sewall a “Boston magistrate.” But I found the info on Sewall quite interesting. I wish I had the time to really study the history of that period. I would enjoy your tours. 🙂