Oliver Cromwell- The Man that Banned Christmas

As part of WUHstry’s tag challenge, this blog will focus upon a man who is often overlooked at this time of year, and at a time of year where in the mid 17th century celebrations were restricted. The man in question is Oliver Cromwell, whom was in charge of England after the English Civil War of 1642- 1651. With more information of how Cromwell came into power, here is a song from a Monty Python sketch:

Once Cromwell rid of Charles I in 1649 within the third conflict of the English Civil War between 1649-1651, it quickly led to the Rump Parliament in place to be disbanded by Cromwell. It paved the way for Cromwell to become the leader of England, an action which saw him set up the Commonwealth, and carry out actions within Ireland and Scotland, due to the population following the Roman Catholic faith. Cromwell himself was a Puritan, or a protestant as is also known, leading to an action which will go down in history. Oliver Cromwell, the man who had led the Parliamentarians against the Royalists, with battles at Basing House which I have written about before, limited the celebration of Christmas. What better way to explain, than through the magic of the Horrible Histories TV series on CBBC.

At a time where we have all hopefully enjoyed a great Christmas, it is hard to imagine that there was once a time where the celebration was muted. The mid 17th century saw a time where Puritan’s were uncertain over the future of Christmas, due to the fact that each year it provided a lot of waste, and also due to the fact that Christ’s mass- the celebration of Christmas, was still heavily rooted to its Roman Catholic Roots, seeing no justification for the holiday.

Humorous Image of Cromwell in a Santa Hat

As Charles I started to lose power in the 1640’s to the Long Parliament, parliament began clamping down on the celebration of Christmas, which, if it was kept, should be a day of fasting and seeking the lord. In January 1642 shortly before the Civil War started, Charles I agreed to Parliaments suggestion that the last Wednesday of every month be kept as a fasting day. Many hoped that this would be alongside the Christmas fasting-day. Late 1644 saw the parliament agree upon the 25th December to be a day of fasting.

Cromwell as portrayed in Horrible Histories

January 1645 saw parliament appoint a group of ministers to produce a new Directory of Public Worship, which set out for a new church organisation to be followed in England and Wales. It made clear that Sundays were holy days, however there would be no holy days of festivities. June 1647 further added to this with the Long Parliament reiterating the abolition of feasts of Christmas, Easter and Whitsun. This was further instated during the 1650’s, putting in place penalties for anyone found to be holding or attending Christmas services, with shops and markets made to stay open on this day.

Snoopy Celebrating Christmas- Imagine How Different Christmas Could Have Been

It is worth noting that although his name has not been mentioned directly, Cromwell was heavily involved within the Long Parliament, proving to be an important asset. As a Puritan he was against the open worship of Christmas, so was fully behind the acts passed. Yet although legislation had been passed banning Christmas, people still carried out the celebrations, with semi-clandestine services being performed. Shops often stayed closed, and riots had been known to take place in London, Canterbury, Bury St Edmunds and Norwich. Sadly for Cromwell (and luckily for everyone else), once Charles II was instated following the political crisis in Britain upon Cromwell’s death in 1658, Christmas was too, with people being allowed to openly celebrate the occasion.

Image of Charles II– The first Monarch after the Restoration- The Monarch Who Allowed Christmas

So at a time of year where we have celebrated Christmas, it is worth remembering the roots of Christmas are heavily Catholicised, remembering Christ. It is worth remembering that without Charles II, Christmas as we know it may not have been as celebrated as it was, due to the fact that Cromwell and parliament had attempted Puritan reform to limit the celebration of Christmas. Christmas in that time as it is now, became a time where family mattered more than just the celebration, something that is still true today. I hope you enjoyed reading this post as part of WUHstry’s tag challenge month, and that you had a good Christmas.

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5 thoughts on “Oliver Cromwell- The Man that Banned Christmas

    1. I suppose there had to be an element of judgement by historians, who I guess would use both diary entries as well as any old laws they could find

    2. If you mean date Christmas, then they used an old pagan festival and basically changed it to mean the birth of Christ, whose date was probably more around April, May I believe.

      So you are right, it was another reason why they disagreed with it, but Matt is right in stating it was very linked with Catholicism.

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