Cancel Christmas!


Before the English Civil War, Christmas was celebrated much as it had always been.  December 25th was a holiday on which shops and businesses were closed and special church services were held.  Buildings were decorated with rosemary, holly and ivy and people did pretty much the same kind of thing we do today.  Eating, drinking, carol singing, drinking, dancing, drinking, perhaps watching a play … and yet more drinking.  And, to a greater or lesser degree, it went on for the full twelve days and culminated in the biggest knees-up of all on January 6th.

Inevitably, all this drinking led to Drunken Brawls and Lewd or Promiscuous Behaviour.  Or so the killjoys said.  They may have had a point. On the other hand … cancelling Christmas?  It’s a bit extreme, isn’t it?

But that’s exactly what they did.

In 1644, two years after the start of the Civil War, Christmas was banned by Act of Parliament and decreed, henceforth, to be an ordinary working day. The Puritans considered twelve days of roistering and jollification wasteful, decadent, morally deficient and almost unchristian.  Some of them  blamed it on on the Catholics; others said it was Pagan.  None of them liked it.

So Christmas became illegal and went underground – taking the mince pies, plum puddings and Christmas songs with it.  Officials roamed the streets, ready to arrest anyone caught burning a Yule Log or doing anything the least bit Merry. Wassailing was now a thing of the past. Presumably, the Puritans were happy – mostly because no one else was.

Illicit pamphlets were printed containing verses about Old Christmas so everyone remembered what they were missing.

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Naturally, not everyone took the new law lying down. Yuletide discontent was responsible for angry mobs, riots and would-be Wassailers knocking seven bells out of the officials trying to arrest them.   Everybody (except the Puritans) felt strongly about their Right To Party.

Unfortunately, they had to wait until 1662 before the Merry Monarch made it legal again and Old Christmas was finally able to come out of the closet.

Love and joy come to you and to you your Wassail too – and God bless you and send you a Happy New Year

And my own very best wishes to everyone for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Author: Stella Riley


7 thoughts on “Cancel Christmas!”

  1. No, Venus is just my internet handle; my parents went with something much more traditional. At least it wasn’t Gustava Adolpha, which they’d mentioned was a consideration (joking, I think.)
    I’m slowly making my way through the series. I’ve been too busy lately, and am saving them for when I can relax and enjoy them without rushing through. Am really glad to hear there’s hope for poor Eden. I just read The Mesalliance last week, and am intrigued to hear of an upcoming book in their world.

  2. Hi Venus,
    Sorry – is that really your name?
    Yes, definitely shades of a memorable Alan Rickman moment.
    I’m glad you enjoyed the updated version of ‘Defiance’. That particular book is a favourite of mine. As always, if you cared to post a brief review on Amazon (or wherever you bought it) that would be greatly appreciated.
    I’m not sure whether you’ve read ‘Falcon’ yet. If not, and you do get round to it, I hope you’ll enjoy it as much my previous work.
    Inevitably, I’m currently embarking on the long road that will lead to Eden’s story – but, in the meantime, there will be a new Rockliffe series book available soon.

  3. This post title reminded me of Alan Rickman’s scene-stealing Sheriff of Nottingham calling off Christmas in Robin Hood.

    Recently had the pleasure of reading the new, updated version of A Splendid Defiance, and like them both. I gave my sister a copy over Christmas, pretty sure she’ll enjoy it as much as I did. Love Justin’s sarcastic asides and Abby’s dry rejoinders. It was fun catching a glimpse of them in Garland of Straw.

  4. Hi Stella
    I thought you might be interested in a poem I wrote 8 years ago. Still very relevant today.
    It followed comments made about not having a traditional Christmas as it may offend.

    We can’t have Christmas this year but a “Wintry Season” instead.
    No Christmas Carols in the shops, no toys at the foot of the bed.
    “It might upset some people, their beliefs are different you see.
    We must respect other cultures” and with that I completely agree.

    But this is a two way ball game. My tradition is now at stake.
    If I have to make sacrifices, which ones are they asked to make?

    I’ve loved and enjoyed every Christmas from the very first year I was born,
    Yet now, at the age of 64 I’m told that my pleasure has gone!

    I don’t wish to be disrespectful, for truly that isn’t my way,
    But these people take all the help that we give and the benefits that we pay.
    We welcome them into our country, mostly without too much fuss.
    If we went across to their lands, would they do the same for us?

    I don’t really like to say this, but nobody asked them to come,
    So if we offend them so deeply, they could always get a flight home.

    As for me I’ll do Christmas as usual with turkey and tinsel and fun.
    They can poke their “Wintry Season”


  5. Very interesting, informative and funny. I didn’t realise the celebrations went on for a full 12 days! I particulary liked the fact that alcohol played and important part in the proceedings. Keep them coming and a Merry Xmas to you.

    1. Thanks, TJP. Their celebrations were probably not so very different from ours today – though they made a lot more of Twelfth Night than we do. But no Christmas for 18 years? No wonder folk rebelled!
      Oh – and a Merry Christmas to you, too!

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