This article was first published in the Christmas 2011 issue of BBC History Magazine, Save a huge 50% off a subscription to your favourite history magazine. However, Cromwell himself did not live a life of rigid self-control. In London, soldiers were ordered to go round the streets and take, by force if necessary, food being cooked for a Christmas celebration. Word of the lesson:Puritan. 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 Christmas bans in 1657 didn’t go down well, causing outrage known as the Plum Pudding Riots in the Kent city in 1658. The Battle to Keep Christmas. You have successfully linked your account! 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 … Puritans viewed with consternation eating and drinking on Christmas day. There was unrest and flashes of violence in other regions, too, with troops enacting the measures by force. The documents provided here give some insight into aspects of domestic and foreign policy during the Commonwealth period under Oliver Cromwell when England was a republic. The Law Commission said none of the 11 laws that remained on the statute books after Cromwell’s reign related to mince pies. Oliver Cromwell banned celebrations, Christmas, Morris dancing, maypole dancing, feasting, dancing. 1647- 1659 In 1660 the ban was lifted. 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. From this time onwards, attitudes towards Christmas among English Puritans began to harden. Well, he did the unthinkable today. Resistance in some areas, however, was brazen. 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. 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. Cromwell banned Christmas as people would have known it then. A group of Londoners set up holly and ivy decorations and in doing so, had to face down a group of soldiers. 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. 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. His book, The Black Legend of Prince Rupert’s Dog, is published by University of Exeter Press. It is a common myth that Cromwell personally ‘banned’ Christmas during the mid seventeenth century. Why did Cromwell abolish Christmas? The story begins in England, just before Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell came to power. On June 1647 Parliament passed an Ordinance that abolished Christmas Day as a feast day and holiday. It has been claimed that eating the snack is still illegal in England, if undertaken on Christmas Day. In 1644, MPs passed an ordinance which confirmed the abolition of Easter, Whitsun, and Christmas as feasts of the Church of England. Many may be surprised to learn that Christmas used to be illegal in America — all thanks to Protestants. You need four colours. Cromwell ended up having to send 3,000 soldiers from The Westgate Towers to break down the city gates and enforce the ban. 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. 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. This comes from the time of Oliver Cromwell in the 1650s, when mince pies were banned at Christmas, along with other tasty treats. Published in January 1646, this publication took great pleasure in conflating Taylor himself with the symbolic character of ‘old Christmas Day’ whose persona the royalist writer had assumed in his own previous pamphlets. 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. The legislation was deeply unpopular and was enforced only sporadically. 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. 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. 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 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. 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. Cromwell saw Christmas and its celebrations as very Catholic. Displays of Christmas decorations – holly, ivy and other evergreens – were banned. Many ordinary Londoners continued to show a dogged determination to keep Christmas special during the following year, and John Taylor’s decision to rush into print at this time with his Complaint of Christmas – a work which bore the same title as a pamphlet urging the enthusiastic observance of the mid-winter feast, which he had published as long ago as 1631 – was clearly motivated by a desire to stir up popular resentment against the parliamentarian leadership, as well as to turn a quick profit for its poverty-stricken author. However historian Mark Connelly from the University of Kent claimed the ban of eating mince pies still hasn’t been abolished. Festive games and carol singing were outlawed during the English Civil War You can unsubscribe at any time. Oliver Cromwell – Do you deserve the Bad Press you have had over the Centuries? Thank you for subscribing to HistoryExtra, you now have unlimited access. 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. By the C17th, Christmas had become a holiday of celebration and enjoyment especially after the problems caused by the civil war. But it wasn’t only the partying that was the reason for the ban. 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. Following Cromwell’s installation as lord protector in 1653, the celebration of Christmas continued to be proscribed. 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. 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? Eight months later, that threat was to become all too real. As the year 1645 limped towards its weary close, a war-torn England shivered beneath a thick blanket of snow. 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”. From this point until the Restoration in 1660, Christmas was officially illegal. 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. A few months earlier, parliament’s New Model Army, led by Sir Thomas Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell, had routed the forces of Charles I at the battle of Naseby. (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); It has been claimed that eating the snack is still illegal in England, if undertaken on Christmas Day. Most people kept Christmas on the quiet. Oliver Cromwell – Why did you refuse the Crown? Women were not allowed to wear make-up because Cromwell banned it. Here’s a Reformation indeed!”. It was a deeply unpopular move. 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. As early as December 1643, the apprentice boys of London rose up in violent protest against the shop-keepers who had opened on Christmas Day, and, in the words of a delighted royalist, “forced these money-changers to shut up their shops again”. He … Evidence: Festive celebrations, including mince pies and Christmas puddings, were reportedly banned in Oliver Cromwell's England as part of efforts to … Listen: Mark Stoyle responds to listener queries and popular search enquiries about the conflict between Royalists and Parliamentarians that wracked the British Isles in the middle of the 17th century, on this episode of the HistoryExtra podcast: One of the clauses of the ‘Solemn League and Covenant’ which parliament signed with the Scots in September 1643 stated that, in exchange for Scottish military assistance against the king, MPs would ensure that further “reformation” of the Church of England took place. Cromwell needed to reinforce existing legislation because the people of England refused to give up Christmas. Eating a mince pie or singing carols was made illegal. You're now subscribed to our newsletter. ... a riot broke out in Canterbury when pro-Christmas locals attacked and smashed the shops of people who dared to open on Christmas Day. Throughout the medieval period, Christmas Day had been marked by special church services, and by magnificent feasts accompanied by heavy drinking. On the same day, Canterbury descended into the fantastically named, Plum Pudding Riots. 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. 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! 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. On December 19, 1644, it ordered that December 25 should be marked as a fast, not a feast, and banned Christmas altogether. The Puritan assault on Christmas during the 1640s and 1650s. On June 1647 Parliament passed an Ordinance that abolished Christmas Day as a feast day and holiday. By continuing to browse the site, you are agreeing to our. Following the rebellion of the Presbyterian Scots against Charles I in 1637, however, all this was to change. 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. Oliver Cromwell – Do you see yourself as the Godfather of Democracy & Parliament? It wasn’t only Christmas however. Edmund Calamy preached a sermon in the House of Lords saying: "This day is commonly called Christmas-day, a day that has heretofore been much abused in superstition and profaneness. To Find out how England changed under the rule of Oliver Cromwell. Puritanism was imposed after the English parliament had adopted the Puritan beliefs t… This comes from the time of Oliver Cromwell in the 1650s, when mince pies were banned at Christmas, along with other tasty treats. 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 of course. Oliver Cromwell During the following year, moreover – when Christmas Day happened to coincide with one of the monthly fast days upon which parliament’s supporters were enjoined to pray for the success of their cause – MPs ordered, not only that the fast day should be “observed” instead of the traditional feast, but also that the fast should be kept “with the more solemn humiliation, because it may call to remembrance our sins, and the sins of our forefathers, who have turned this feast, pretending [to] the memory of Christ, into an extreme forgetfulness of him, by giving liberty to carnal and sensual delights”. Thus the way was paved for the ‘anti-Christmas’ of 1645 – a day upon which, in Taylor’s words, a man might pass right through the parliamentary quarters, and “perceive no sign or token of any holy day”. 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. 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 […] On Christmas Day 1643, a mob of London apprentices went about the city, forcing shops open for business to close. Christmas is a time for celebration but the festive season was once banned in England for almost 20 years, sparking a second Civil War. Following Parliament’s victory, the ban on Christmas was rigorously enforced and churches across the kingdom were kept locked on Christmas day. 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. 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. Main Task:Read through the mystery clues. 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? Oliver Cromwell- 1647-1660 Christmas festivities were banned by Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell, who considered feasting and revelry on what was suppose to be a holy day to be immoral. 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. So strong was the popular attachment to the old festivities, indeed, that during the postwar period a number of pro-Christmas riots occurred. During the early 1600s, most English Puritans had been prepared to tolerate Christmas. It is a common myth that Cromwell personally ‘banned’ Christmas during the mid seventeenth century. Only with the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 was ‘old Christmas Day’ finally brought back in from the cold, to widespread popular joy. 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’. In the 17th century, the Puritans had laws forbidding the ecclesiastical celebration of Christmas, unlike the Catholic Church or the Anglican Church, the latter … Mark Stoyle is professor of history at the University of Southampton. Among the characters will be soldiers from New Model Army as well as Royalists in support of the return of monarchy. 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. Oliver Cromwell – What circumstances led to the Civil War? Following a total ban … But the people of England weren’t letting Christmas go without a fight. Following a … Please enter your number below. Oliver Cromwell – Why did the King have to die? Did Oliver Cromwell really ban Christmas? 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. In which years did Oliver Cromwell ban Christmas? Oliver Cromwell – How did you become the country’s most powerful military leader? Cromwell wanted it returned to a religious celebration where people thought about the birth of Jesus rather than ate and drank too much. Christmas is the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, which, in Western Christian Churches, is held annually on 25 December.For centuries, it has been the subject of several reformations, both religious and secular. By entering your details, you are agreeing to HistoryExtra terms and conditions and privacy policy. 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. 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. There were further dark mutterings the next year. There seems to be a problem, please try again. 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. When party-pooping puritans banned Christmas in the 17th century. The Puritans ordered all shops to open as usual on Christmas Day. 1647 was the exact year when Oliver Cromwell officially banned christmas. Here, Taylor was hinting to his readers that the godly parliamentarians posed a potential threat to Christmas itself. In January 1645 the final nail was hammered into Christmas’s coffin, when parliament issued its new Directory for the Public Worship of God, a radical alternative to the established Book of Common Prayer, which made no reference to Christmas at all. He said: “Cromwell held that if you’re caught eating a mince pie on Christmas Day you’re definitely trying to celebrate this banned festival.”, This website uses cookies. On 25 December 1647, there was further trouble at Bury, while pro-Christmas riots also took place at Norwich and Ipswich. The Scottish Kirk, which was itself fiercely Protestant, had abolished Christmas as long ago as the 1560s and, although James I had managed tentatively to restore the feast in his northern kingdom in 1617, it was banned there once again after his son’s defeat by the Scots in 1640. 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. You will shortly receive a receipt for your purchase via email. 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. 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. 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. Nevertheless, recent scholarship has shown that, as time went by, Christmas effectively ceased to be celebrated in the great majority of churches. 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. It was in part ideological. Did Oliver Cromwell ban Christmas? Throughout the medieval period, Christmas Day had been marked by special church … 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”. The defenders of Christmas had weathered the storm. Oliver Cromwell – Britain’s Greatest Ever General? Learning objectives: To understand why Christmas was banned in England. Thanks! Many tried to resist the directive at first, and groups of young men staged pro-Christmas riots in London and Canterbury, smashing the windows of shopkeepers who continued to trade on Christmas Day. The subsequent 12 Days of Christmas saw more special services along with sports, games and more eating and drinking. All of the “harmless sports” with which people had long celebrated Christ’s nativity “are now extinct and put out of use… as if they had never been,” Taylor lamented in his pamphlet The Complaint of Christmas, and “thus are the merry lords of misrule suppressed by the mad lords of bad rule at Westminster”. 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. Historians have dubbed the civil war as the First English Civil war. The attack on the feast of Christmas had deep roots. There was a widespread, though minority view, that Christmas should be a fast day devoted to sober religious contemplation. He wanted Christmas to be a purely religious celebration in which people contemplated the birth of Jesus. On Christmas Day 1647, pro-Christmas riots burst forth from all over England. 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. When Christmas carols were banned By Clemency Burton-Hill 19th December 2014 During the Puritans’ rule of England, celebrating on 25 December was forbidden. Why did Cromwell abolish Christmas? 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. 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. 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. “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”. Oliver Cromwell included in the Penguin Monarchs series. They renamed Christmas ‘Christ tide’, to avoid any reference to the Roman Catholic ‘Mass’ and deemed it an ordinary working day. The smell of a goose being cooked could bri… 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. 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. University of Warwick historian Professor Bernard Capp said the ban was put in place by the Puritan government in 1647 as they believed Christmas was used as an excuse for drunkenness, promiscuity, gambling and other forms of excess. When Christmas was banned in Scotland ... some years after the death of Oliver Cromwell. In the closing verse of a contemporary ballad, a gloomy royalist writer suggested that the collapse of the king’s cause had sealed the fate of Christmas itself, remarking: “To conclude, I’ll tell you news that’s right, Christmas was killed at Naseby fight.”. 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. 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. In 1647, Christmas was banned in England. 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