Here, in the midst of the annual holiday season excess, is a good time to remember that for most of our history, Quakers did not celebrate, in their words, “that day the world calls Christmas.” In New England, at least, they were joined by the Puritan legacy. In Massachusetts, for instance, Christmas was not legal until the 1850s.

Of course, these days it’s very difficult to ignore the hoopla – especially if you have children present. And I’m not even going to get into that Santa Claus stuff.

What I will do, however, is speak of the practice of Advent – observing the weeks building up to Twelfth Month 25th as a period of preparation and anticipation. Babies, after all, arrive only after nine months (or so) of pregnancy, and there’s much to be said for the changes in both the mother and the father in that period. Some Advent calendars come with verses and stories for the family to share over dinner.

Admittedly, by not bringing the tree in until Christmas Eve and not taking it down until Epiphany (the real Twelfth Day of Christmas, contrary to what some advertisers broadcast), you’ll be out of step with most of American society. That can have its own revelations, as you recognize the struggle some other faith traditions have here. But you may also find that unwrapping the presents can just be the beginning of a holiday fullness, not its anticlimax. Actually, our tree usually stays up a few weeks past Epiphany, but that’s another story. Oh, yes, and remember to have a few oranges. (Speaking of other stories.)


My wife makes reference, too, to all the Puritan diaries from New England, which recorded December 25 pointedly and repeatedly as “an ordinary day.”


  1. Ah yes, the Puritans, who banned Christmas and Morris dancing and theatres… but today people don’t remember that and think it’s the Muslims who want to ban Christmas!

    (Sorry, a regular bugbear of mine).

    But Advent’s good value. It started as a period of fasting and preparation for people who were to be baptised at Christmas or Epiphany. Even today it has value as a penitential season; I find fasting through Advent a helpful antidote to the overblown commercialised hoopla!

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