The Journal of Ecclesiastical History

Research Article

The Christmas Season and the Protestant Churches in England, c. 1870–1914


a1 School of Arts and Media, Teesside University, Room M410 (Main Tower), Borough Road, Middlesborough TS1 3BA; e-mail:


Histories of the English Christmas tend to downplay the role of religion in the development of the modern festival. This article examines the place of religion in the popular celebration of Christmas, as well as the provision of worship offered by the Protestant Churches during the festive season. It argues that although some churchmen viewed Christmas pessimistically as part of a broader battle between sacred and secular, the Churches played an important role in the expansion of the urban public culture of Christmas in the late nineteenth century, whilst the doctrine of the incarnation provided a religious framework for the celebration of childhood and domesticity that the festival had come to embody.

(Online publication September 19 2011)


I would like to thank Professor Arthur Burns, Dr Catriona Kennedy and the anonymous reader for this Journal for their helpful comments on previous versions of this article.