An outright ban on Christmas was introduced in 1647 – when Cromwell and his soldiers were in bitter dispute with Parliament – with fines introduced for shops that did not remain open, and even intrusions into the home. When Christmas was banned in Scotland ... some years after the death of Oliver Cromwell. It is a myth that mince pies are banned on Christmas Day, according to BBC as it is claimed the ban didn’t survive when Charles II became king. Well, he did the unthinkable today. Christmas celebrations in New England were illegal during parts of the 17th century, and were culturally taboo or rare in former Puritan colonies from foundation until the mid-18th century. It is a common myth that Cromwell personally ‘banned’ Christmas during the mid seventeenth century. At the time, England was under the leadership of the monarch, King Charles I and several civil wars had been fought between the Parliamentarians and the Royalists, a war that swung in both sides in that year. Following a … The outright ban came in June 1647, when Parliament passed an ordinance banning Christmas, Easter and Whitsun festivities, services and celebrations, including festivities in the home, with fines for non-compliance - although they also introduced a monthly secular public holiday (the equivalent of a modern bank holiday) instead. Throughout the medieval period, Christmas Day had been marked by special church services, and by magnificent feasts accompanied by heavy drinking. Mark Stoyle is professor of history at the University of Southampton. Oliver Cromwell included in the Penguin Monarchs series. The origin of the ban dates back to the beginning of 1642 when England was on the cusp of a civil war that would see it operate as a Republic for a brief period of time under Oliver Cromwell. Oliver Cromwell – Do you see yourself as the Godfather of Democracy & Parliament? The rejection of Christmas as a joyful period was reiterated when a 1644 ordinance confirmed the abolition of the feasts of Christmas, Easter and Whitsun. Meanwhile, many MPs turned up to sit in the parliament house, thus making their own disdain for the customary Christmas holiday very clear. Among the characters will be soldiers from New Model Army as well as Royalists in support of the return of monarchy. Thank you for subscribing to HistoryExtra, you now have unlimited access. There can be no doubt that many people continued to celebrate Christmas in private, and in his pamphlet The Vindication of Christmas (1652), the tireless John Taylor provided a lively portrait of how, he claimed, the old Christmas festivities were still being kept up by the farmers of Devon. As the year 1645 limped towards its weary close, a war-torn England shivered beneath a thick blanket of snow. Under constant pressure from the armies of both sides to supply them with money, clothing and food, few Englishmen and women can have been anticipating a particularly merry Christmas. Throughout the medieval period, Christmas Day had been marked by special church … They renamed Christmas ‘Christ tide’, to avoid any reference to the Roman Catholic ‘Mass’ and deemed it an ordinary working day. In 1647, Christmas was banned in England. While he had not been personally responsible for ‘cancelling Christmas’ in the first place, it is evident that both Cromwell and the other senior members of his regime were behind the ban, frequently transacting government business on 25 December as if it were a day just like any other. Everything you ever wanted to know about... A brief history of presidential impeachment, The hippy trail: a pan-Asian journey through history, Oliver Cromwell: the secret of his military genius, Saturnalia: the origins of the debauched Roman ‘Christmas’, Zwarte Piet: the history behind the Christmas controversy. Following the outbreak of full-scale Civil War between king and parliament in 1642, John Taylor became one of the first to allude in print to the radicals’ decision to dump Christmas. In December 1646, for example, a group of young men at Bury St Edmunds threatened local tradesmen who had dared to open their shops on Christmas Day, and were only dispersed by the town magistrates after a bloody scuffle. With all forms of celebration associated with Christmas banned, this Puritan inspired prohibition did not win the popular vote of the general public and incited pro-Christmas riots and blatant flouting of the rules leading to confrontations in a number of cities including Canterbury, London and Norwich. And as political tensions between Charles I and his opponents in parliament rose during 1641 so a handful of Puritan extremists took it upon themselves to abandon the celebration of Christmas. On December 19, 1644, it ordered that December 25 should be marked as a fast, not a feast, and banned Christmas altogether. Oliver Cromwell – What was your proudest moment? Following the rebellion of the Presbyterian Scots against Charles I in 1637, however, all this was to change. 1647 was the exact year when Oliver Cromwell officially banned christmas. Sensitive Questions About Ireland for Oliver Cromwell – Drogheda, Sensitive Questions About Ireland for Oliver Cromwell – Grace Dieu, Sensitive Questions About Ireland for Oliver Cromwell – The Irish Troubles, ‘Cromwell – An Honourable Enemy’ by Tom Reilly, Oliver Cromwell’s speech to the Rump Parliament. Oliver Cromwell banned celebrations, Christmas, Morris dancing, maypole dancing, feasting, dancing. If you subscribe to BBC History Magazine Print or Digital Editions then you can unlock 10 years’ worth of archived history material fully searchable by Topic, Location, Period and Person. When Christmas carols were banned By Clemency Burton-Hill 19th December 2014 During the Puritans’ rule of England, celebrating on 25 December was forbidden. This lesson is based around a mystery question 'Why was Christmas banned?'. But the people of England weren’t letting Christmas go without a fight. So why had the parliamentarians decided to wage war on Christmas – and how did those, like Taylor, who were determined to defend the traditional celebrations, fight back? It was a deeply unpopular move. In this fictitious address, the ‘lecturer’ is shown assuring his audience that they should not “conceive of me to be so superstitious, as to make any conscience of… this day, because the Church hath ordained [it]” to be a holy feast. On the same day, Canterbury descended into the fantastically named, Plum Pudding Riots. The official website for BBC History Magazine, BBC History Revealed and BBC World Histories Magazine, Save 50% on a BBC History Magazine or BBC History Revealed subscription, Mark Stoyle investigates popular resistance to the Puritan assault on Christmas during the 1640s and 1650s. By the early 17th Century Puritans and other firm Protestants were seeing the Christmas jollifications as unwelcome survivors of Catholicism as well as excuses for all manner of sins. On 25 December 1647, there was further trouble at Bury, while pro-Christmas riots also took place at Norwich and Ipswich. The defenders of Christmas had weathered the storm. He wanted Christmas to be a purely religious celebration in which people contemplated the birth of Jesus. Festive food was removed from the streets which meant that the smell of a roasting goose could also bring trouble, while decorations, too, were banned. It was ironic, to say the least, that while the godly had failed to suppress the secular Yuletide festivities which had vexed them for so long, they had succeeded in ending the religious observance of Christmas! He … You can unsubscribe at any time. Yet matters were not so simple, for, even though the king’s armies had been beaten out of the field and he himself had fallen into the hands of his enemies, most Englishmen and women continued to cling to their traditional Christmas customs. Three months later, a number of Puritan tradesmen in London opened up their shops for business on 25 December in order to show that they regarded this day as no different from any other, while several London ministers kept their church doors firmly shut. The attack on the feast of Christmas had deep roots. During early 1646, Charles I’s remaining field forces melted away almost as fast as the winter snow and by April the game was clearly up for the king. Displays of Christmas decorations – holly, ivy and other evergreens – were banned. Festive games and carol singing were outlawed during the English Civil War From this time onwards, attitudes towards Christmas among English Puritans began to harden. Oliver Cromwell – Why did the King have to die? Although that defeat had struck the king’s cause a mortal blow, the royalists still refused to surrender, and the bloody Civil War which had divided the country ever since 1642 continued to rage. While Cromwell certainly supported the move, and subsequent laws imposing penalties for those who continued to enjoy Christmas, he does not seem to have played much of a role in leading the campaign. The other major event was when Oliver Cromwell imposed a puritanical form of worship with the help of his allies at the Ely cathedral after taking over Parliament. John Taylor had died some years before, but if he could have foreseen that, two centuries later, Charles Dickens would be reprising the role which Taylor had made his own – that of the mouthpiece of the ‘true Christmas spirit’ – and that a century and a half later still, the celebration of Christmas would remain as ubiquitous in England and Wales as ever, he would doubtless have felt that his labours had been worthwhile. Eight months later, that threat was to become all too real. In a satirical pamphlet published in January 1643 – a pamphlet which was clearly intended to appeal to a wide popular audience – Taylor provided his readers with the text of A Tub Lecture, which, he claimed, had been preached by a godly joiner to a group of Puritans at Watford “on the 25 of December last, being Christmas day”. Christmas Day was a day like any other- and to prove the point, staunchly puritan MPs made sure they were at work on Christmas Day. When the lord mayor despatched some officers “to pull down these gawds,” the apprentices resisted them, forcing the mayor to rush to the scene with a party of soldiers and to break up the demonstration by force. The Puritans ordered all shops to open as usual on Christmas Day. Did Oliver Cromwell really ban Christmas? To Find out how England changed under the rule of Oliver Cromwell. Here, Taylor was hinting to his readers that the godly parliamentarians posed a potential threat to Christmas itself. Christmas was effectively banned in Britain by a 1644 Act of Parliament, with the Long Parliament of 1647 passing an ordinance which officially abolished the feast of Christmas making its celebration punishable. In London, a crowd of apprentices assembled at Cornhill on Christmas Day, and there “in despite of authority, they set up Holly and Ivy” on the pinnacles of the public water conduit. Historians have dubbed the civil war as the First English Civil war. On 24 December 1644, the editor of a pro-parliamentarian news-pamphlet expressed his support for the MPs’ decision to favour the monthly fast over the traditional feast, but admitted that “the parliament is cried out on” by the common people as a result, with incredulous shouts of “What, not keep Christmas? In the 17th century, the Puritans had laws forbidding the ecclesiastical celebration of Christmas, unlike the Catholic Church or the Anglican Church, the latter … Eating a mince pie or singing carols was made illegal. Worse was to follow in 1647 – despite the fact that, on 10 June that year, parliament has passed an ordinance which declared the celebration of Christmas to be a punishable offence. When party-pooping puritans banned Christmas in the 17th century. However, Cromwell himself did not live a life of rigid self-control. In which years did Oliver Cromwell ban Christmas? The subsequent 12 Days of Christmas saw more special services along with sports, games and more eating and drinking. There was a widespread, though minority view, that Christmas should be a fast day devoted to sober religious contemplation. Long before the Civil War began, many zealous Protestants, or ‘Puritans’, had been troubled both by the boisterous nature of the festivities which took place at Christmas and by the perceived association of those festivities with the old Catholic faith. As Ronald Hutton has observed, this clause encouraged religious radicals on the ground to seize the initiative and to attack those aspects of the traditional ecclesiastical calendar which they disliked. In one passage, Taylor/‘old Christmas Day’ – here described as “an old, old, very old grey-bearded gentleman” – is portrayed sitting dejectedly in the midst of the king’s shrinking territories, while desperately urging “all you that ever think to see Christmas again, stick to me now close!”, Any lingering hopes on the part of the royalists that popular anger at the abolition of Christmas might somehow transform their military fortunes were soon to be dispelled. It wasn’t only Christmas however. You have successfully linked your account! Cromwell ended up having to send 3,000 soldiers from The Westgate Towers to break down the city gates and enforce the ban. Why did Cromwell abolish Christmas? Oliver Cromwell – How did you become the country’s most powerful military leader? The Battle to Keep Christmas. This riot helped to pave the way for a major insurrection in Kent in 1648 that itself formed part of the ‘Second Civil War’ – a scattered series of risings against the parliament and in favour of the king, which Fairfax and Cromwell only managed to suppress with great difficulty. Why did Cromwell abolish Christmas? Cromwell saw Christmas and its celebrations as very Catholic. While Cromwell certainly supported the move, and subsequent laws imposing penalties for those who continued to enjoy Christmas, he does not seem to have played much of a role in leading the campaign. Back in 1647, Christmas was banned in the kingdoms of England (which at the time included Wales), Scotland and Ireland and it didn’t work out very well. Nevertheless, recent scholarship has shown that, as time went by, Christmas effectively ceased to be celebrated in the great majority of churches. Oliver Cromwell wanted to tackle gluttony in England and he also thought that Christmas contained too many superstitions of the Roman Catholic Church, which he was not keen on … Back in 1647, Christmas was banned in the kingdoms of England (which at the time included Wales), Scotland and Ireland and it didn’t work out very well. Oliver Cromwell A group of Londoners set up holly and ivy decorations and in doing so, had to face down a group of soldiers. Puritanism was imposed after the English parliament had adopted the Puritan beliefs t… Many may be surprised to learn that Christmas used to be illegal in America — all thanks to Protestants. During the course of the Ipswich riot, a protestor named ‘Christmas’ was reported to have been slain – a fatality which could be regarded as richly symbolic, of course, of the way that parliament had ‘killed’ Christmas itself. When King Charles II returned to power in 1660 one of his first acts was to repeal all the anti-Christmas legislation, helping foster his image as the “Merry Monarch”. Following parliament’s victory in the Second Civil War and the execution of Charles I in 1649, demonstrations in favour of Christmas became less common. By entering your details, you are agreeing to HistoryExtra terms and conditions and privacy policy. The parliamentarians had abolished the high point of the English ritual year, and the cancellation of Christmas aroused huge popular resentment – not just in the royalist camp, but in the districts controlled by parliament, too. From this point until the Restoration in 1660, Christmas was officially illegal. Resistance in some areas, however, was brazen. “No, God forbid I should be so profane,” the ‘lecturer’ goes on, “rather it is a detestation of their blindness that have brought me hither this day, to enlighten you… [and] I give you to understand that the very name of Christmas is idolatrous and profane, and so, verily, are the whole 12 days [of Christmas] wherein the wicked make daily… sacrifices to riot and sensuality”. Instead, it was the broader Godly or parliamentary party, working through and within the elected parliament, which in the 1640s clamped down on the celebration of Christmas and other saints’ and holy days, a prohibition […] His book, The Black Legend of Prince Rupert’s Dog, is published by University of Exeter Press. From Charles’s beleaguered wartime capital in Oxford, the royalist satirist John Taylor – by now in his mid-60s, but nevertheless one of the king’s most indefatigable literary champions – issued a cry of anguish at this assault on England’s time-honoured customs. By continuing to browse the site, you are agreeing to our. Oliver Cromwell – What circumstances led to the Civil War? Christmas is a time for celebration but the festive season was once banned in England for almost 20 years, sparking a second Civil War. In London, the Puritan heartland, zealots such as John Barkstead, Governor of the Tower, prohibited festivities with such severity that some wondered whether ‘they shall be suffered to be Christians any longer or no’. Yet, for those who lived in the extensive territories which were controlled by the king’s enemies, there was to be no Christmas this year at all – because the traditional festivities had been abolished by order of the two Houses of Parliament sitting at Westminster. There were further dark mutterings the next year. Learning objectives: To understand why Christmas was banned in England. How far Taylor succeeded in these aims it is impossible to say, but his satire quickly provoked a parliamentarian counter-satire entitled The Arraignment, Conviction and Imprisoning of Christmas. Cromwell needed to reinforce existing legislation because the people of England refused to give up Christmas. Please enter your number below. Oliver Cromwell – Why did you refuse the Crown? The defeat of King Charles I in the Civil War put the more extreme Protestants into power and so Parliament passed a series of measures to enforce this campaign on others. 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