Reformed and Dissenting Protestants

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Abstract

The meaning and observance of Christmas has always been contested and perhaps those most associated with opposition are to be found amongst Reformed and Dissenting Protestants. In the aftermath of the Reformation, Puritans, Scottish Presbyterians, and their heirs in both the Old and New Worlds most vociferously opposed and effectively proscribed the religious and secular observance of Christmas. Yet taking a longer perspective demonstrates that they too wavered between protest and participation and had to adapt their principles to changing circumstances. Was Christmas a holy day, a holiday, or neither? How could church leaders and theologians transform popular opinion and practice? Complexity of attitudes and often-pragmatic accommodation were inescapable as marking the passage of time and involved a range of complex issues. Their attitudes were further complicated by Church–State relations and denominational differences in which the celebration of Christmas became a sign of difference. Most of the groups belonging to these traditions dissented from Episcopalian state churches and objected to liturgies that followed the Christian Year; even in Scotland, where Presbyterians became the state church, the religious non-observance of Christmas became a symbol of Scottish identity in contrast to their larger English neighbour. Opposition to Christmas was also tempered over time by the involvement of Reformed and Dissenting Protestants in the broader evangelical movement as well as the commercial and industrial revolutions of the period. Groups belonging to this tradition were both the cause and the victim of the secularization and commercialization of the season.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Christmas
EditorsTimothy Larsen
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Chapter14
Pages167-182
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)9780198831464
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2020

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