I have only one phrase to describe this action. Bah humbug. England banned Christmas in 1647! That’s right, a Christian country which was under the rule of possibly the most puritan leadership that the country has ever experienced, banned one of the most holy days on the Christian calendar. What was their deal? Were they secretly plotting against the church, or were they just a bunch of no fun kill joys?
On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me… We all know the Christmas jingle (search YouTube for the Irish 12 days of Christmas), and it really does sound like a heap of nonsense. Twelve days of Christmas, when it’s actually only one day on the calendar. It must have been made just to make what would have been a very short song that little bit longer. But here’s the thing. The twelve days of Christmas was a real thing, and in England it was a country wide celebration, if you can call it that. Christmas day itself was a Holy day, and revered among the God fearing people, but it also marked the start of the festive twelve days of celebration that lasted until early January.
You wouldn’t describe Oliver Cromwell and his followers as the life of the party. As puritans, or as we would see them today, extremists, they saw the festivities following one of the most sacred days on the calendar as sacrilege, and not worthy of a good Christian life. And to be honest, the twelve days of Christmas was just a really big nationwide piss up.
The festivities would begin Christmas day. It was a familiar scene. Friends and families gather and exchange gifts, celebrate the birth of Christ and say thanks for what they had. But after that first day, when we normally go looking for a Boxing Day sale, they just kept partying on. Gifts would continue to be exchanged, not that there’s too much wrong with that, but it got worse. Shops would remain closed for the duration, and there would be almost non stop drinking, partying, singing, dancing, gambling and fireworks. It really was a twelve day nationwide party. This didn’t sit very well for the Puritan Cromwell who had seized power following the English Civil War. The populace was having a party under the auspices of a Holy day. It had to end.
So how does a dictator end a debaucherous celebration that’s ingrained into the nations soul? Well, he did the unthinkable today. In 1647, Christmas was banned in England. But it wasn’t only the partying that was the reason for the ban. It was in part ideological.
Cromwell saw Christmas and its celebrations as very Catholic. This combined with the twelve days of Christmas resulted in it being outlawed. It wasn’t only Christmas however. The Puritans banned all religious occasions, even the holiest days of Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The only holy days that they allowed to be observed were Sundays.
But thankfully for the population of England, Christmas was returned when the crown was restored in 1660