Season's Greetings! 5 Holiday Traditions From the 1st Circuit

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on December 23, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Although Christmas is for many Americans a religious occasion, the federal courts have upheld its status as a legal holiday.

One court reasoned that "by giving federal employees a paid vacation day on Christmas, the government is doing no more than recognizing the cultural significance of the holiday."

But did you know that each state of the First Circuit celebrates the holiday in a unique way? Here's an overview of some Christmas traditions found in the circuit's five jurisdictions:

  • Maine. Christmas along the famous Maine lobster coast involves spreading crustacean cheer. Lobster traps are stacked 60 feet high and create the shape of a Christmas tree. After being decorated with Christmas lights, the tools-of-the-trade trees become the centerpiece of holiday festivals. In one town, more than 1,000 lobster traps were used to create a lobster trap Christmas tree.
  • Massachusetts. Christmas was actually banned in Boston during the 17th-century Puritan era. The ban existed as law for only 22 years, but disapproval of the Christmas celebration lasted until the mid-1800s. Of course Christmas traditions, which may have been shaped by the Civil War, are now in full swing in Massachusetts.
  • New Hampshire. Celebrating the holidays in Portsmouth includes revisiting holiday traditions from the 1790s through the 1950s, on a Candlelight Stroll through New Hampshire's oldest neighborhood: Strawberry Banke in Portsmouth.
  • Puerto Rico. Dating back to 1506, when Ponce de León first settled the region, Puerto Rico's Christmas tradition has been evolving for more than 500 years. Today, Puerto Rico's Christmas season is "marked with lechon asado, a young pig turned on a spit along with abundant amounts of pastels (a delicious mix of mashed plantain with meat and seasoning wrapped and cooked in banana leaves, arroz y gandules (rice and pigeon peas), drinking of rum and aguinaldos -- traditional Puerto Rican Christmas songs," reports
  • Rhode Island. Serving as proof that New England's sense of history and tradition doesn't prevent it from embracing change, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee announced earlier this month that he would officially refer to the 17-foot-tall Colorado blue spruce in the statehouse as a "Christmas tree," breaking with years of tradition of calling it a "holiday tree."

Happy holidays, First Circuit!

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