Without too much additional comment, I wanted to pass along this excellent piece by Stephen Nissenbaum in the Sunday Boston Globe. Nissenbaum is a professor emeritus of history at UMass Amherst (additional academic credits excised) and author of The Battle For Christmas, which I’m now going to have to check out.
The piece details the history of Christmas in Puritan New England (particularly Boston), and outlines how the much-maligned commercialism pervading the holiday nowadays was in fact introduced as part of a solution to cleanse the holiday of its history of revelry, “chambering,” and roving mobs demanding money. (In a period account, a rather amusing anecdote emerges of one such mob entering the home of a monied family and taking over their card game. The chagrined complaint is priceless. Those were the days.) And of course I’m pleased to see Cotton Mather cited and quoted. It’s about time he made it into this blog.