In late medieval and Tudor England, rulers believed that lower-class men had two main responsibilities: working and preparing for possible combat. Thus sports and games — a distraction from said duties — were often subject to legislation, especially if people bet on their outcomes. King Edward III banned bowling in 1361, although Henry VI allowed it again 94 years later. During Henry VIII’s 16th-century reign, he banned bowling anew, as well as tennis, bocce ball, cards, and dice. However, those with more resources could apply for special bowling licenses to play on their own greens, and although the laws prohibited bowling alleys, Henry VIII had his own lanes installed at Whitehall Palace. There was just one time of year when common people were allowed to enjoy bowling: the 12 days of Christmas. Although citizens were rarely cited for challenging this bowling ban, the law endured for more than three centuries.
British, German, and Dutch settlers brought the pastime to America, where lawmakers launched their own strikes against bowling. Stateside bowling alleys in the 1800s were mostly owned by bars, so elected officials linked the activity to gambling and crime. In 1841, Connecticut banned nine-pin bowling lanes, and other areas of the country followed. To bypass the statutes, bowlers added a 10th pin, creating today’s game. As of 2018 the U.S. had just 19 nine-pin bowling alleys, all in Texas, a state that began taxing operators prior to Connecticut’s ban.
A father of six, President Teddy Roosevelt was no Scrooge — he was just environmentally conscious. During his administration, Roosevelt designated 150 national forests and five national parks. To raise awareness of deforestation, he wanted the First Family to forgo a Christmas tree for their 1902 Yuletide celebration. However, his two youngest sons had other plans. Quentin and Archibald Roosevelt, then ages 5 and 8, enlisted White House staffers for help chopping down a small nearby fir tree. The boys covered their contraband with lights and concealed it in a closet until December 25. Within a few years, Christmas trees were back in the White House for good.