Walk down Boston’s Washington Street this winter, and you will see many signs of the holidays: festive, green garlands outline shop doors, strings of lights twinkle busily over busy streets, and shoppers whisk past with crisp, paper shopping bags. The bright, red doors of Old South Meeting House are adorned with wreaths and the warmth of this hospitable museum and meeting place receives you in from the cold. But, the building did not always welcome the holiday season!

In fact, New England’s early Puritan founders who worshipped at Old South Meeting House, a church until the 1870s, condemned Christmas altogether! Not only were the Puritans distressed by the excess of the holidays (twelve whole days of disruptive dancing and drinking, merry-making and misrule!), but they also were disturbed by the lack of Biblical authority for celebrating the holiday on December 25 and the holiday’s pagan origins (Christmas was based on winter solstice and raucous Roman Saturnalia celebrations). This resistance toward Christmas also represented an ongoing conflict between Puritan and English philosophies. Christmas and similar feasts were officially banned from New England in 1659. And, so, the Puritans spent their Christmas day just like any other, working and engaged in prayer. The ban was revoked in 1682 by English-appointed Sir Edmund Andros but the holiday was still not officially recognized in Massachusetts until 1856.

By the early 19th century, attitudes toward Christmas had begun to change as the tone of the holiday turned from boisterous revelry to a more subdued and family-friendly, domestic, and now commercial, celebration. New Englanders relished in new folk stories of Saint Nicholas and a tree surrounded by presents as did local merchants who catered to a breed of new seasonal shopper! And, Old South Meeting House, once a place of worship for those strict Puritans, was now a museum where all could break from the cold to come to celebrate the building’s, and nation’s, historic past!

Today, Old South Meeting House welcomes all people for winter revelry and family-friendly holiday programs!

Holiday Open House. Friday, November 30 and Saturday, December 1 at 10 am to 4 pm daily
We welcome guests to visit this remarkable 18th century landmark for our annual Holiday Open House. Your free admission includes your museum visit, a family-friendly craft and exhibit scavenger hunt, and light refreshments. Enjoy innovative and flavorful teas from downtown Boston’s newest tea shop, David’s Tea. On Saturday, December 1, from 12:15 pm to1 pm, take a break from your holiday shopping for a fun concert by the New England Conservatory’s Vocal Jazz Ensemble,

Dickens’ A Christmas Carol Times Two. Saturday, December 8 at 2 pm
Join us at the Meeting House on for a reinvented holiday classic. Dickens’ A Christmas Carol Times Two is a benefit performance of the English classic, a night of theatrics and music hosted by Victorian Englishman Thomas Hutchinson. Actor Al LePage plays Hutchinson as well as 18 characters from the famous story—from Scrooge to Tiny Tim!

This performance is best suited for adults and children age 10 and up. 100% of ticket proceeds benefit the preservation and planning of Old South Meeting House. Please note: The Museum will close to the public at 12 noon and will reopen to program ticketholders at 1:30 pm., one half hour prior to the performance.

Al Page as Victorian Englishman Thomas Hutchinson. Photo Courtesy Old South Meeting House