It sounds crackers but Christmas was cancelled in 1649 when Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector of England, following the execution of Charles I.
Cromwell’s puritan Christian beliefs held no room for festive frivolities. He didn’t ‘personally’ ban Christmas though. Cromwell was a Puritan. He was a highly religious man who believed that everybody should lead their lives according to what was written in the Bible.
In London, soldiers patrolled the streets and confiscated any food being cooked in celebration of Christmas. One of the main beliefs of the Puritans was that if you worked hard, you would get to Heaven. Pointless enjoyment was frowned upon.
Many people came to frown upon the celebration of Christmas, for two reasons:
1. They disliked all the waste, extravagance, disorder, sin and immorality of the Christmas celebrations.
2. They saw Christmas (that is, Christ’s mass) as an unwelcome survival of the Roman Catholic faith, as a ceremony particularly encouraged by the Catholic church and by the recusant community in England and Wales, a popish festival with no biblical justification. They said that nowhere had God called upon mankind to celebrate Christ’s nativity in this way.
Cromwell wanted Christmas returned to a religious celebration where people thought about the birth of Jesus rather than ate and drank too much. Sounds familiar?!
When Charles II was restored to the throne the fun element of Christmas was reinstated in 1660. Christmas was still a low-key affair though and by the end of the 18th century celebrations ceased.
What made Christmas popular again?
It is thought that the publication of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens helped to reintroduce the festival in Britain. On the first day that Dickens’ novel went on sale – 13 December 1943 – 6,000 copies were sold.
Have a Dickens of a Christmas everyone!