by Craig Dimitri

For thirteen years in the 17th century, Christmas-tide was actually outlawed in England, by an official Act of Parliament.  The reason was the rise to power of the dictator Oliver Cromwell, as a result of the Puritan victory over the Cavaliers, during the English Civil War.  It has frequently been reported that the Puritan winners had the audacity to ban Christmas, but rarely noted that they even went so far as to ban every other holiday, as well.

The Puritan faction seized power in 1645, although for some reason, they did not get around to officially outlawing Christmas and other holidays, until June 1647.  The official text of the ban:

Forasmuch as the feast of the nativity of Christ, Easter, Whitsuntide [note: the term for the feast of Pentecost, 50 days after Easter; it was a shortening of its English name, “White Sunday”], and other festivals, commonly called holy-days, have been heretofore superstitiously used and observed; be it ordained, that the said feasts, and all other festivals, commonly called holy-days, be no longer observed as festivals; any law, statute, custom, constitution, or canon, to the contrary in anywise not withstanding.

– Daniel Neal, The History of the Puritans (London, 1837; rpt. Minneapolis: Klock , p. 45, quoted by http://www.pepysdiary.com/p/314.php   

Fortunately, the ban was ineffective, and the popular holiday observance of “keeping Christmas” never actually died out, regardless of the stern disapproval of the Puritan government.  Cromwell’s death paved the way for the Restoration of the Stuart dynasty in 1660.  After 15 years of Puritan rule and 13 years of an outlawed Christms-tide, King Charles II immediately repealed – to great popular rejoicing – the legislation assaulting Christmas and other holidays, and Christmas-tide returned to normal.

Questions?  Comments?  Information?  You can contact Craig Dimitri at cdimitri1@yahoo.com. 

Pepys’ Diary -  http://www.pepysdiary.com/p/314.php   

History ChannelThe Real Story of Christmas:

http://www.history.com/minisite.do?content_type=Minisite_Generic&content_type_id=1254&display_order=1&sub_display_order=3&mini_id=1290

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