W&L Historian Pens New York Times Op-Ed
An op-ed by Washington and Lee historian Rachel Schnepper in Saturday’s New York Times explores the history of the so-called “war on Christmas.”
Rachel, who’s in her second year at W&L as a Mellon Junior Faculty Fellow, is working on a book titled “Preachers, Polemicists, and Print: Translatlantic Religious Experiences and the English Revolution.” She is examining the explosion of printed matter on churches in the Atlantic colonies published in the 1640s and 1650s.
In her Times piece, “Yuletide’s Outlaws,” Rachel compares the current controversy in the United States over what some cite as censorship or avoidance of the term “Christmas” in advertising with a similar historic instance.
As she observes: “The contemporary War on Christmas pales in comparison to the first — a war that was waged not by retailers but by Puritans who considered the destruction of Christmas necessary to the construction of their godly society.”
In fact, as Rachel notes, Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony outlawed the celebration of Christmas and, between 1659 and 1681, fined anyone caught celebrating Christmas in the colony five shillings.