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Christmas- American Presidency Project; 1776; and more

Christmas – as Celebrated by the Presidents
David Barton

Even though Christmas did not become a national holiday until 1870, it has a centuries old history in America. Interestingly, in colonial America, the southern regions that were more directly linked to High-Church traditions (e.g., Anglicans, Catholics, Episcopalians) celebrated Christmas; but the northern regions especially linked to Low-Church traditions (e.g., Congregationalists, Baptists, Quakers) did not. Those Low-Church colonists associated the pomp and grandeur of Christmas celebrations directly with the autocratic leaders and monarchs in Europe that they so opposed.

Massachusetts therefore passed an anti-Christmas law in 1659, and it was not until the 1830s and 1840s that Christmas celebrations became accepted in New England (although as late as 1870, a student missing school on Christmas Day in Boston public schools could be punished or expelled). But by the 1880s, Christmas celebrations were finally accepted across the country and began to appear at the White House. For example:

  • In 1889, the first indoor decorated tree was placed in the White House, and in 1895, electric lights were added.
  • In 1923, the first National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony was held. In 1954 it was named the Pageant of Peace but in 1969 it became embroiled in a legal controversy over the use of religious symbols. In 1973, the nativity scene that had always been part of the Pageant was no longer allowed, but in 1984, it returned.
  • In 1953, the first White House Christmas card was created by President Dwight Eisenhower. (Ike was an artist in his own right and allowed six of his own paintings to be used as Christmas gifts and cards.) President Kennedy’s 1963 Christmas card was the first to include an explicitly religious element, featuring a photo of a nativity scene. And in 2001, the first White House Christmas card to contain a Scripture was chosen by Laura Bush. It quoted Psalm 27: “Thy face, Lord, do I seek. I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the Land of the Living” – a Scripture she had chosen on September 16 (only 5 days after 9/11), based on a special sermon preached at Camp David.

Christmas was celebrated by our national leaders as a religious holiday, not the largely secular one it has become today.

For example, every Christmas Eve, President Teddy Roosevelt and his family would pile into the family sleigh (later the motor car) and travel to a Christmas service at Christ Church in Oyster Bay, New York. Following the pastor’s sermon, Teddy would deliver one of his famous “sermonettes” on the true meaning of Christmas and then close the service with one of his favorite hymns, “Christmas By the Sea.”

President Franklin Roosevelt would set up and decorate a tree on Christmas Eve, gather the family round him, and either read Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” or recite it from memory. (The original story is quite different from the modern movies by that name and is well worth the read.) He would also deliver explicitly religious Christmas Eve messages to the nation. For example, in 1944 following D-Day, he said:

Here, at home, we will celebrate this Christmas Day in our traditional American way – because of its deep spiritual meaning to us; because the teachings of Christ are fundamental in our lives; and because we want our youngest generation to grow up knowing the significance of this tradition and the story of the coming of the immortal Prince of Peace and good will. . . . [FDR then prayed a prayer for the troops, and closed with:] We pray that with victory will come a new day of peace on earth in which all the Nations of the earth will join together for all time. That is the spirit of Christmas, the holy day. May that spirit live and grow throughout the world in all the years to come.

(I recommend you go online to the American Presidency Project and look up and especially read some Christ-centered Christmas messages from Presidents, such as that of Franklin Roosevelt in 1935, Harry Truman in 1949 or 1952, Ronald Reagan in 1982 or 1985, George W. Bush in 2003, and there are many additional examples. You should also watch President Reagan deliver one of his Christmas addresses.)

In recent years, there has been a relentless push from secularists and progressives to transform Christmas. Schools, government offices, and many commercial stores have replaced Merry Christmas with Happy Holidays to appease critics, not realizing that 93% of Americans celebrate Christmas, and 97% are not bothered by the use of the phrase “Merry Christmas.” Yet far too often, the 3% seems to drive public policy; Americans need to push back.

Gratefully, religious Jews have been some of the strongest advocates for keeping Christmas a religious celebration. For example, Burt Prelutsky, a Jewish columnist for a number of national publications, declares:

I never thought I’d live to see the day that Christmas would become a dirty word. . . . How is it, one well might ask, that in a Christian nation this is happening? . . . Speaking as a member of a minority group – and one of the smaller ones at that – I say it behooves those of us who don’t accept Jesus Christ as our savior to show some gratitude to those who do, and to start respecting the values and traditions of the overwhelming majority of our fellow citizens, just as we keep insisting that they respect ours. Merry Christmas, my friends!

Orthodox Jewish Rabbi Daniel Lapin agrees:

Secular fundamentalism has successfully injected into American culture the notion that the word “Christmas” is deeply offensive. . . . Anti-Christianism is unhealthy for all Americans; but I warn my brethren that it will prove particularly destructive for Jews. . . . Let us all go out of our way to wish our many wonderful Christian friends – a very merry Christmas. Just remember, America’s Bible belt is our safety belt.

So . . . Merry Christmas!!!

David & Cheryl Barton
WallBuilders

(To sign up on the WallBuilders email list and receive future information about historical issues and Biblical values in the culture, or to visit the site for studies on Our Founders, Constitutional History, and American exceptionalism, please click the link above)

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Remembering the Providential Gift of America

Christmas, 1776.

Summer had begun with strong declarations of noble ideals, but by winter the cause of liberty seemed to be at low ebb. Having suffered defeat after defeat, many had all but given up hope. It looked like freedom would succumb yet again, as it had throughout history, to the forces of authoritarianism and tyranny.

Then, on Christmas Day, 1776, a small band of colonial forces under the command of Gen. George Washington, having retreated all the way from New York, again crossed the Delaware River and brought battle at Trenton, New Jersey. Washington not only won the battle but regained the initiative and turned the war in the patriots’ favor. One week later, Washington defeated the British at Princeton and forced the enemy to withdraw, preventing its advance on Philadelphia, seat of the Continental Congress.

When it announced itself to the world in 1776, the United States of America was little more than an alliance of 13 small colonies on a barren continent, thousands of miles from their ancestral homeland, surrounded by hostile powers.

Now, well over two centuries after winning independence from the British Empire, America is the freest, wealthiest, most powerful nation on Earth. Along the way it established sovereign nationhood, settled a continent and more and brought unprecedented prosperity to its citizens. It survived a devastating Civil War that threatened its very life, abolished slavery and raised up the emancipated to be citizens equal to their one-time masters. It triumphed in two world wars fought on foreign soil and a decades-long struggle against worldwide communism that, 20 years ago, led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of the Soviet Union.

What accounts for this monumental success? The founding of the United States was indeed revolutionary. But not in the sense of replacing one set of rulers with another, or overthrowing the institutions of society. John Adams queried:

What do we mean by the American Revolution? The revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people. . . . This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.

Our revolution was about the ideas upon which a new nation was to be established. Permanent truths “applicable to all men and all times,” as Abraham Lincoln later said, proclaimed that principle rather than will would be the ultimate ground of government.

What is truly revolutionary about America is that, for the first time in history, these universal ideas became the foundation of a system of government and its political culture. Because of these principles, rather than despite them, the American Revolution culminated not in tyranny but a constitutional government that has long endured.

To this day, 233 years after Washington and his men crossed the Delaware, these principles–proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence and promulgated by the Constitution–still define us as a nation and inspire us as a people. These principles are responsible for a prosperous, just nation unlike any other. They are the highest achievements of our tradition, a beacon to those who strive for freedom but also a warning to tyrants and despots everywhere. Because of these principles, not despite them, America achieved greatness.

The Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson later recorded, was “neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, [but] was intended to be an expression of the American mind.”

As Americans, our aim must be a clear expression and forthright defense of the nation’s principles in the public square so that they become, once again, an expression of the American mind. Despite constant scorn by academic elites, political leaders and the popular media, most Americans still believe in the uniqueness of this country and respect the Founders’ noble ideas. They may fail a test of particulars – quick: when did Washington cross the Delaware? – but they overwhelmingly want to know about this nation and its meaning.

We must give voice to all those who have not given up on their country’s experiment in self-government, have not concluded the cause of liberty and limited constitutional government is lost and have not accepted America’s decline as inevitable.

The goal must be to restore the liberating principles of the American Founding as the defining public philosophy of our nation. As it was for most of American history, so it can be again.

The joy of this wonderful season is about new beginnings and the eternal promise of redemption. We Americans have the immeasurable benefit, the providential gift, of having inherited a great country.

We must never forget its confidence, optimism and promise, its endless capacity for renewal, are contained in our dedication to the enduring principles of liberty with which all men are endowed by their Creator.

May you and yours have a merry and blessed Christmas.

Merry CHRISTmas from STTPP-The Beacon: The birthday of the Nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior

The following was in part adapted from an article by Pastor Chuck Baldwin:

As we approach the celebration of Christ’s birth, be reminded of the words of John Quincy Adams. On July 4, 1837, he spoke these words:

“Why is it that, next to the birthday of the Savior of the world, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day? . Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? That it forms a leading event in the progress of the Gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth. That it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity, and gave to the world the first irrevocable pledge of the fulfillment of the prophecies announced directly from Heaven at the birth of the Savior and predicted by the greatest of the Hebrew prophets six hundred years before?”

Adams was exactly right: America’s birth is directly linked to the birth of our Savior. In fact, the United States of America is the only nation established by Christian people, upon Biblical principles, and dedicated to the purpose of religious liberty. This truth is easily observed within America’s earliest history.

America’s forebears first established a written covenant with God as early as November 11, 1620, when they penned The Mayflower Compact. This covenant with God however took on a whole new cause around 150 years later when the tyranny and oppression of all things – religious liberty, personal liberty, economic liberty – by the British crown became intolerable. Hence the movement for independence and freedom, and the founding of Nation, to which the principles and virtues that would become the makeup of its foundation, could not be more clear. A nation of free people governing themselves in such a way that their liberties would be derived from the teachings and aspirations of Christ, and would be grounded in the beliefs that forevermore, said people’s inalienable rights come only from our Creator, and that government shall only be a vessel to protect these rights, rather than to decide what they shall or shall not be. Henceforth there shall never be another mortal tyrant king or kings to rule over men, for the only kings and lords America shall ever recognize is God and Christ.

Many think of Benjamin Franklin’s words of wisdom surrounding the era of 1776, but even as far back as 1743 he quipped, “How many observe Christ’s birth-day! How few, his precepts! O! ’tis easier to keep Holidays than Commandments.” Later in 1787 on Motions for Prayer at the Constitutional Convention he stated, “I have lived, Sir, a long time; and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this Truth, that God governs in the Affairs of Men. And if a Sparrow cannot fall to the Ground without his Notice, is it probable that an Empire can rise without his Aid?”

John Adams in 1776 spoke that “It is the duty of all men in society, publicly, and at stated seasons, to worship the SUPREME BEING, the great Creator and Preserver of the universe.” These same words later appear in the Massachusetts Bill of Rights of 1780. Yet another profound statement of importance from Adams; “The general principles upon which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity”

In the great state of Thomas Jefferson, the Virginia Bill of Rights of 1776, speaks of “[R]eligion, or the duty which we owe to our creator.” It further speaks of “a mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other.” Jefferson, among many other statements, also once said, “The doctrines of Jesus are simple,  and tend to all the happiness of man.”

A most notable Declaration signor, John Hancock, once stated ““We recognize no Sovereign but God, and no King but Jesus!”

Patrick Henry who believed so strongly in our Liberties that he would rather die than fail to achieve them, proclaimed; “It cannot be emphasized too clearly and too often that this nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religion, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ.  For this very reason, peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.”

Samuel Adams wrote a letter in 1778 to John Trumbull stating, “Religion and good morals are the only solid foundation of public liberty and happiness.”

George Washington’s 1778 letter to Thomas Nelson stated in part, “The Hand of providence has been so conspicuous in all this…” In his first inaugural address 1789 he proclaimed, “The foundations of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality…”, said morality of course derived from the teachings of Christ. In speaking of education he stated, “What students would learn in American schools above all is the religion of Jesus Christ.” In 1790 he penned a letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport in which he said, “May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us in all our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.”

In 1784, John Jay our first Supreme Court Justice, in a letter to Peter Augustus Jay stated, “The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts.” In another instance speaking he said, “Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”

Gouverneur Morris giving advice to the French people in 1791, regarding a form of a Constitution for their nation, in part discussed, “Religion is the only solid basis of good morals; therefore education should teach the precepts of religion and the duties of man towards God.”

In 1806 Benjamin Rush speaking on proper education in our Republic stated, “[T]he only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.” And on education he stated, “…the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government; that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by means of the Bible.”

In 1825 James Madison’s letter to Frederick Beasley spoke of how “The belief in a God All Powerful wise and good, is so essential to the moral order of the world and to the happiness of man…”

Noah Webster (dubbed by many “The Father of American Education”)(and Webster’s Dictionary 1806) on the subject of education once stated, “In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government ought to be instructed.”

The sentiments and statements of America’s founders make it clear that this nation has enjoyed a love and appreciation for the rights and freedoms recognized in Natural Law that is unique in the annals of human history. No other people have such a heritage.

One thing America’s founders could not envision was–after they had paid so terrible a price to purchase our liberties–that the time would come when their posterity would be denied the basic freedoms to publicly express their reverence for God. Never could they have imagined that the day would come when citizens of the sovereign states (each with a State constitution protecting religious liberty) would be denied their right to pray in school, or place Nativity scenes on public property, or hang copies of the Ten Commandments on courthouse walls.

I am also confident that America’s founders would be completely repulsed by the way the United States has jumped headlong into corporatism, socialism, and globalism. At the national level, Democrats and Republicans alike have created a central government so large that it would be unrecognizable to any Founding Father (even Alexander Hamilton). In addition, both Big Business and Big Religion have sold our great country down the old proverbial river. Truly, our Founding Fathers must be rolling over in their graves.

Therefore, at this Christmas season, let us remember well the founding principles of these United States of America. Furthermore, let us renew with vigor the fight for freedom before our liberties and our heritage are gone altogether.

From our family’s to yours: Merry Christmas, with all it’s blessings, may they guide you the rest of your days, and may they help us keep Our Great Nation on the right path, for all the generations beyond your days.

Heritage Foundation

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Merry CHRISTmas from STTPP-The Beacon: The birthday of the Nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior

The following was in part adapted from an article by Pastor Chuck Baldwin:

As we approach the celebration of Christ’s birth, be reminded of the words of John Quincy Adams. On July 4, 1837, he spoke these words:

“Why is it that, next to the birthday of the Savior of the world, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day? . Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? That it forms a leading event in the progress of the Gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth. That it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity, and gave to the world the first irrevocable pledge of the fulfillment of the prophecies announced directly from Heaven at the birth of the Savior and predicted by the greatest of the Hebrew prophets six hundred years before?”

Adams was exactly right: America’s birth is directly linked to the birth of our Savior. In fact, the United States of America is the only nation established by Christian people, upon Biblical principles, and dedicated to the purpose of religious liberty. This truth is easily observed within America’s earliest history.

America’s forebears first established a written covenant with God as early as November 11, 1620, when they penned The Mayflower Compact. This covenant with God however took on a whole new cause around 150 years later when the tyranny and oppression of all things – religious liberty, personal liberty, economic liberty – by the British crown became intolerable. Hence the movement for independence and freedom, and the founding of Nation, to which the principles and virtues that would become the makeup of its foundation, could not be more clear. A nation of free people governing themselves in such a way that their liberties would be derived from the teachings and aspirations of Christ, and would be grounded in the beliefs that forevermore, said people’s inalienable rights come only from our Creator, and that government shall only be a vessel to protect these rights, rather than to decide what they shall or shall not be. Henceforth there shall never be another mortal tyrant king or kings to rule over men, for the only kings and lords America shall ever recognize is God and Christ.

Many think of Benjamin Franklin’s words of wisdom surrounding the era of 1776, but even as far back as 1743 he quipped, “How many observe Christ’s birth-day! How few, his precepts! O! ’tis easier to keep Holidays than Commandments.” Later in 1787 on Motions for Prayer at the Constitutional Convention he stated, “I have lived, Sir, a long time; and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this Truth, that God governs in the Affairs of Men. And if a Sparrow cannot fall to the Ground without his Notice, is it probable that an Empire can rise without his Aid?”

John Adams in 1776 spoke that “It is the duty of all men in society, publicly, and at stated seasons, to worship the SUPREME BEING, the great Creator and Preserver of the universe.” These same words later appear in the Massachusetts Bill of Rights of 1780. Yet another profound statement of importance from Adams; “The general principles upon which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity”

In the great state of Thomas Jefferson, the Virginia Bill of Rights of 1776, speaks of “[R]eligion, or the duty which we owe to our creator.” It further speaks of “a mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other.” Jefferson, among many other statements, also once said, “The doctrines of Jesus are simple,  and tend to all the happiness of man.”

A most notable Declaration signor, John Hancock, once stated ““We recognize no Sovereign but God, and no King but Jesus!”

Patrick Henry who believed so strongly in our Liberties that he would rather die than fail to achieve them, proclaimed; “It cannot be emphasized too clearly and too often that this nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religion, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ.  For this very reason, peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.”

Samuel Adams wrote a letter in 1778 to John Trumbull stating, “Religion and good morals are the only solid foundation of public liberty and happiness.”

George Washington’s 1778 letter to Thomas Nelson stated in part, “The Hand of providence has been so conspicuous in all this…” In his first inaugural address 1789 he proclaimed, “The foundations of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality…”, said morality of course derived from the teachings of Christ. In speaking of education he stated, “What students would learn in American schools above all is the religion of Jesus Christ.” In 1790 he penned a letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport in which he said, “May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us in all our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.”

In 1784, John Jay our first Supreme Court Justice, in a letter to Peter Augustus Jay stated, “The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts.” In another instance speaking he said, “Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”

Gouverneur Morris giving advice to the French people in 1791, regarding a form of a Constitution for their nation, in part discussed, “Religion is the only solid basis of good morals; therefore education should teach the precepts of religion and the duties of man towards God.”

In 1806 Benjamin Rush speaking on proper education in our Republic stated, “[T]he only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.” And on education he stated, “…the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government; that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by means of the Bible.”

In 1825 James Madison’s letter to Frederick Beasley spoke of how “The belief in a God All Powerful wise and good, is so essential to the moral order of the world and to the happiness of man…”

Noah Webster (dubbed by many “The Father of American Education”)(and Webster’s Dictionary 1806) on the subject of education once stated, “In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government ought to be instructed.”

The sentiments and statements of America’s founders make it clear that this nation has enjoyed a love and appreciation for the rights and freedoms recognized in Natural Law that is unique in the annals of human history. No other people have such a heritage.

One thing America’s founders could not envision was–after they had paid so terrible a price to purchase our liberties–that the time would come when their posterity would be denied the basic freedoms to publicly express their reverence for God. Never could they have imagined that the day would come when citizens of the sovereign states (each with a State constitution protecting religious liberty) would be denied their right to pray in school, or place Nativity scenes on public property, or hang copies of the Ten Commandments on courthouse walls.

I am also confident that America’s founders would be completely repulsed by the way the United States has jumped headlong into corporatism, socialism, and globalism. At the national level, Democrats and Republicans alike have created a central government so large that it would be unrecognizable to any Founding Father (even Alexander Hamilton). In addition, both Big Business and Big Religion have sold our great country down the old proverbial river. Truly, our Founding Fathers must be rolling over in their graves.

Therefore, at this Christmas season, let us remember well the founding principles of these United States of America. Furthermore, let us renew with vigor the fight for freedom before our liberties and our heritage are gone altogether.

From our family’s to yours: Merry Christmas, with all it’s blessings, may they guide you the rest of your days, and may they help us keep Our Great Nation on the right path, for all the generations beyond your days.

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