Did John Brown Celebrate Christmas?
From the primary evidence, I have never seen Brown make direct reference to Christmas or the celebration of the holiday. There are one or two extant John Brown letters dated close to December 25, and none of them have a Christmas greeting, nor any reference to the Christmas season at all. Judging from John Brown's letters alone, it is almost as if there were no Christmas.
|In the early 19th century,|
Christmas was more like
Thanksgiving for Protestants
This anti-Christmas sentiment was particularly true of the Puritans, whose opposition to Christmas was part of their efforts to erase Roman Catholic doctrine and custom from English church and society. Oliver Cromwell, one of Brown's historical heros, outlawed Christmas during his time of influence; although England's Christmas observance was later restored, the anti-Christmas sentiment was carried to North America by the Puritans. In "New England," Puritans endeavored to found a pristine Protestant society sans Romish and papal practice, and for a brief time their little experiment worked. In time, however Puritan theology, including hostility toward Christmas celebration, tended toward compromise.
|Puritan descendants like Brown|
probably associated Christmas
celebration with Roman
Catholicism AND Southern slavery
John Brown was likely brought up in a religious culture with some disdain toward pronounced Christmas celebration, but not entirely exclusive of holy-day remembrance. Based upon what historians of Christmas culture tell us, it seems that the revitalization and "Protestantization" of the holiday in the United States was just starting to kick into gear in the mid-19th century. I read somewhere that "Jingle Bells" was copyrighted in 1857, the same year that John Brown was tramping around New England as a Kansas free state fundraiser. Christmas trees, caroling, and decorations were simply not widespread among northern evangelicals yet. Christmas was just not that big of a deal in Brown's antebellum era.
|A Civil War era Christmas celebration|
by enslaved blacks in the South
|Brown and his relatives likely had a|
Christmas dinner like this--no
tree, no Santa, no gifting
Of course, by Christmas day 1859 his body was "moldering in the grave."
[Excerpted and revised from a previous entry--LD]