Feeling the pinch this holiday season? That economic crunch making your wallet a bit thin? Save some money by celebrating a true old-fashioned New England country Christmas.
Don't waste your money on presents, and leave all those evergreens outdoors where they belong. On December 25, go to work or school as usual. Oh, and if you're an employer and your staff takes the day off? Fire their little heathen butts!
Wait, wait, you say--that's not old-time New England; that's Ebenezer Scrooge before the three ghostly visitations. Well, old Mr. Scrooge would have fit right in with pre-Civil War rural New Englanders. Forget all those Currier & Ives visions of rosy-cheeked children hanging their stockings by the chimney with care and Clement Moore's "Visit from Saint Nicholas." Moore was a New Yorker and--gasp!--an Episcopalian--not quite as horrifically heathenish as a Catholic to those staunch Puritanically-descended New Englanders of the early 1800s, but pretty darned close.
While Christmas was being celebrated in the South and in some of the big northern cities like New York and Boston (which had growing populations of Catholics, Episcopalians, and non-Anglo immigrants), out in the New England countryside, Congregationalists and Baptists ruled the religious roosts. Like their Puritan ancestors, they wanted to distance themselves from anything that smacked of Catholic ritual--especially holidays that they considered to be ancient pagan celebrations thinly veiled in Christianity. In the 1830s and 1840s, rural New Englanders viewed Christmas celebrations with curiosity, mistrust, and sometimes open hostility. Businessmen were annoyed and frustrated when they went into cities like Boston and New York and found some of the stores and offices closed for Christmas. Some ministers even preached anti-Christmas sermons, arguing that Christmas celebrations (especially those involving large quantities of alcohol) did not honor Christ's birth, but were profane mockeries of true Christianity. But eventually Christmas infiltrated the countryside, too--hey, who can resist a chance for a day off work, a big pig-out, and presents, too?
For more than you'll ever want to know about Christmas in old New England, read these two articles at the Old Sturbridge Village Website:
So don't stress over the holidays! Just tell your friends and family that you want to celebrate a traditional Christmas, just like they did back in the good ol' days, when all the men were strong, all the women had no rights whatsoever, and all the children worked 80 hours a week.
On the other hand, if you don't like your Christmas fantasies ruined, you can indulge them by checking out Old Sturbridge Village's Christmas by Candlelight, December 12-14 and 19-21. You can find out more about how Christmas was and wasn't celebrated in American cities and villages, how the celebration made its way from cities to the countryside, and learn the origins of some of our Christmas customs. And, best of all, if you come on December 12, you can come and say "hi" to me when I sign copies of A Difficult Boy at the OSV Bookstore! For information about the program, go to www.osv.org and click on the link for "Christmas by Candlelight."
(Can't make it to Sturbridge Village? Head over to my website , where you can find a list of booksellers carrying autographed copies of A Difficult Boy. Most of them will ship books to you.)