The year was 1647, and all was quiet on Christmas Eve. Very quiet in fact, as under the act of Parliament passed by Lord Procurator Oliver Cromwell, Christmas celebrations were banned!
Now it’s important to note that Christmas itself wasn’t banned, just the festivities that went along with it, nor did Cromwell personally ban Christmas- rather the Puritan parliament did. During this time, Christmas Day was a holy, sacred occasion, but it also marked the start of the “twelve days of Christmas”- a period of much frivolity… a major party in other words! Increasingly during the seventeenth century, the Puritans (a group of highly religious Protestants, whose influence led to the Civil War and Roundhead victory) used their strong voice in Parliament to attempt to halt what they saw as a moral decline- a lifestyle of extravagance, excess and waste. Cromwell himself felt it his personal mission to cleanse the country of such sin, and at no time more than the festive period did this ‘dangerous’ attitude to life stand out. One strict Puritan, a man named Philip Stubbes, stated that:
‘More mischief is that time committed than in all the year besides … What dicing and carding, what eating and drinking, what banqueting and feasting is then used … to the great dishonour of God and the impoverishing of the realm.’
So what was this Christmas like? There was no Turkey or goose, no crackers or party games, no Christmas trees, no holly on the door- he even banned minced pies! It was simply a religious observance of the time of Jesus’ birth.
Now, hypothetically speaking, what if Cameron banned Christmas festivities? I know, he never would, but what if he did? Well I suppose it may have the following impact:
- Shops would go into administration quicker than they already are
- We’d have overcrowding issues with Turkeys
- We’d never know what to deck the halls with
- Wham, Mariah Carey and Noddy Holder would find their income from royalties dramatically reduced (although I reckon Noddy could cope… Mariah may have to give up the sleigh rides)
- We’d save a whole bunch of trees by removing the pointless tradition of Christmas cards
- Snow may seem less exciting
- We’d have to eat more Penguins to find bad jokes
- The Queen would have even less to do
- The BBC would have to think twice about two weeks of endless repeat programming
- We’d all eventually need to buy nail clippers
Despite the best efforts of Cromwell’s Puritan Parliament, the British people tried to keep the traditions alive. They had secret celebrations, and shopkeepers closed early despite attempts by the Puritans to keep them open.
This I can resonate with. You can call it a Winter Festival all you want, you can say “Seasons Greetings” in your Christmas cards, but you can’t make it something that it isn’t. It’s Christmas, remembering the Christian account of how the historical man, believed to be the Son of God, came to this earth. We may eat or drink too much, we certainly spend too much, but in a way that all points to what this time is about- the belief that God gave so much through sending Jesus down to this earth.
A Merry Christmas to you, one and all!
Coming next week- a look back at 2011- what will make the history books of the future?