Journey of the Three Magi to Bethlehem by Leonaert Bramer (oil on panel), c. 1638-40

Tis’ the Season to be Arguing: Josiah King’s The Examination and Tryal of Old Father Christmas and the Controversy over Christmas in Early Modern England


This paper explores the history of Christmas as a demarcated time of festival. First, it traces the early history of Christmas, and the early Church’s attitude towards pagan mid-winter festivals. It then outlines how the Puritans of early modern England eventually outlawed Christmas, and on what grounds. It then considers in detail Josiah King’s The Examination and Tryal of Father Christmas, a seventeenth-century allegory about the festival published and revised over several decades. It tracks editorial changes made over the years and its various appeals to medieval and ancient forms of authority. The text itself is but one site of a larger cultural contestation over the power to prescribe meaning to contemporaries’ lived experiences.