The Real ‘War on Christmas’: 1581-1690

It's that special time of year again! Yes, once again we hear the seasonal sounds of complaints about a 'War on Christmas' wafting through the blogosphere and cable news channels. Whatever one may think of this alleged suppression of all things Christmas, the current 'conflict' pales in contrast to the genuine banning of Christmas celebrations that took place in 16th and 17th century Britain and New England. The Real 'War on Christmas': 1581-1690 exhibit in the Williams Library Atrium displays facsimiles of several laws enacted during this period that outlawed the singing of carols, the holding of feasts and festivals, and other aspects of what we today cluster together under the seasonal rubric of holiday joy. These materials illuminate an easily overlooked chapter in the history of religious liberty, and give some valuable perspective to the current debate over the 'War on Christmas'.

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