Banning Christmas

puritans-690x360It was inevitable that the Puritans would come up somewhere in my festive posts. Unfortunately for the Christmas loving inhabitants of Parliamentarian England the holy day was deemed to smack of popery. Admittedly there was rather a lot of drinking, dancing and general merriment and that wasn’t a good thing on account of the fact that it encouraged folk towards sinfulness.  Puritans felt that really and truly that rather than games, morris dancing, Yule logs and eating too much that the population should aim for a more mediative approach to the day involving fasting and prayer or just going about their business as usual. In January 1645 the Directory of Public Worship stated that ‘Festival days, vulgarly called Holy days, having no Warrant in the Word of God, are not to be continued’.


In June 1647, following Parliamentary victories, an ordinance banned Christmas, Easter and Whitsun.  The same ruling decreed that the second Tuesday of every month should be declared a holiday for students, servants and apprentices.  Unfortunately not everyone, particularly the students and apprentices,  were terribly keen on the idea.  Parliament was then required to spend rather a lot of time working out how to prevent Londoners from celebrating Christmas. It ordered that shops should remain open as usual, church services were observed – priests offering up a Christmas Sermon found themselves at the end of an unfestive arrest warrant.

In Ely a puritan minister tried to keep a low profile but his traditionally-minded parishioners informed him that if he didn’t preach a sermon they’d get someone else to do the job so the priest agreed for the sake of peace and quiet.


The people of Canterbury found themselves at loggerheads with the authorities that year as well. Eating mince pies was declared to be illegal and shops were to be kept open.  The mayor took it upon himself to enforce the rules that shops should open as usual.  Dissatisfaction was expressed through the so-called Plum Pudding Riots which began with a shopkeeper being put in the stocks for refusing to open his shop. A game of football ensued through the streets of Canterbury that saw several puritan windows broken and the mayor was forced into hiding whilst his home was looted…nothing like a spot of goodwill in December. It was only when a band of Parliamentarian soldiers were dispatched to Canterbury in January 1648 that order was restored but by that time the people of Kent were up in arms against Parliament.


The unrest wasn’t just confined to Kent the good burghers of Norwich and Ipswich weren’t particularly happy about the disappearance of Christmas either, although in Ipswich the ringleaders of the unrest didn’t make it much beyond Boxing Day before they were rounded up.  In London apprentices took up flower arranging – holly and ivy stuck on the water conduits at Cornhill – which didn’t go down very well with the authorities.

Needless to say that in addition to Christmas services and mince pies, carol singing had been also been banned by that point (just as well there weren’t shops playing carols from October onwards in the seventeenth century or the ban might have proved rather more popular.)

It was only with Cromwell’s death and the restoration of Charles II that Christmas was allowed back into the calendar.

One thought on “Banning Christmas

  1. Cromwell was in fact a man so needed in his time. He liked a drank and smoked his pipe. What is strange about his parliament is that he did away with what we had been allowed through the ages when ruled by Barons and Kings. We had more rights as holidays Sundays off and bank days than this hard working humanist ever thought good in his God like mind. We managed to crush a tyrant in the Scottish King we chopped the head off and more rights not less should have rewarded the public not less. We fought for the wrong side it is true and lived in France leaving our estates for Cromwell to give to his own pals.Then looking back at it all from my armchair now one can see that nothing had changed the plight of the British public.Did not matter a jot to the man in the street who was head over his fate. You see it is him that votes the ordinary folk into Commons. Then they become Cromwell or the King all over again.Power affects the unsteady and corrupts the weak and sinful. The can send us to war, to our deaths. They can hold us to ransom and we vote them in as leaders? Another form of Utopia should replace the way our nation is run. We need not Kings as empty as they are we need not tyrants in Commons. We need a nation run by the people owned by the people for better or worse all at the same level and stance. Impossibly really but we do need to help make our England strong and by the sword no longer divided. Happy Christmas is all well and good but how many believe Paul on any part of his rant today? Yes I say a God exists but I do not know his or her name.I do not take on man made religious rules. God is God and we have no idea who he is.All life is but a test and the prize is heaven. That is my Christmas thought.

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