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Not only did the Puritans not celebrate Thanksgiving, they firmly banned Christmas. (Spoiler alert: the Puritans did not celebrate Easter either.) The Puritans rejected Christmas as a pagan celebration, full of bawdy revelry and tainted by Catholic association. The Puritans believed celebrations like Christmas encouraged frivolous distractions instead of a serious quest for God. I can only image how the Puritans would have responded to Pious Petunia’s thoughtful reader’s question about how to manage the overwhelming kitsch and noise of Christmas. We may include a serious quest for God during advent, but frivolous distraction reaches epic levels during the Christmas season in the United States.
Winter can be long, isolating, and dark, depending on where you live. This poem by Anne Bradstreet, a Puritan living in the 17th century, captures the long dark nights without Christmas lights. She may not have celebrated Christmas, but she clearly understands the joy of the incarnation:
By Night when Others Soundly Slept
By Anne Bradstreet
By night when others soundly slept
And hath at once both ease and Rest,
My waking eyes were open kept
And so to lie I found it best.
I sought him whom my Soul did Love,
With tears I sought him earnestly.
He bow’d his ear down from Above.
In vain I did not seek or cry.
My hungry Soul he fill’d with Good;
He in his Bottle put my tears,
My smarting wounds washt in his blood,
And banisht thence my Doubts and fears.
What to my Saviour shall I give
Who freely hath done this for me?
I’ll serve him here whilst I shall live
And Loue him to Eternity.