Christmas Traditions

Dec 23, 2022

The Battle of Christmas

This Christmas season, we are once again looking at Stephen Nissenbaum’s 1996 book The Battle for Christmas. This readable scholarly analysis of our modern celebration of Christmas makes a detailed case for the idea that it is a 19th-century creation, and a deliberate reformation and taming of a holiday with wilder origins.  Indeed, the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony so feared the day’s association with pagan winter solstice revels, replete with public drunkenness, licentiousness and violence, that they banned Christmas celebrations altogether…

Stephen Nissenbaum is an emeritus professor of history at UMass/Amherst. In 1991-1992, he was granted an American Antiquarian Society – National Endowment for the Humanities Long-Term Fellowship to pursue research on the history of Christmas in New England in relation to popular culture and the printed word; The Battle for Christmas was first published in 1996.