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When was Christmas banned in England?


It might not have looked very much like Christmas at all in the 17th Century (Picture: Getty Images)

We’re officially on the countdown to Christmas now, with just a few short weeks until the big day – which, fingers crossed, will be a bit more normal than it was in 2020, when large parts of the country faced lockdown restrictions.

While last year’s festive celebrations might have been curtailed by the pandemic, they did at least still go ahead in some shape or form.

But can you imagine the possibility of Christmas being banned outright? No turkey, no presents, no parties or decorations at all?

It might sound impossible to believe – but that did in fact happen once in history. Just when was it banned and who was the Scrooge responsible for doing so?

When was Christmas banned in England?

Believe it or not, the festive season was banned in 1647 – but it wasn’t just England that missed out on Christmas fun that year.

That’s because the ban included all the kingdoms of England – which included Wales at the time – as well as Scotland and Ireland.

That’s a whole lot of people not getting to unwrap gifts and sit down to turkey dinners – but who was responsible?

Who banned Christmas and why?

Was it all Oliver Cromwell’s fault, really? (Credits: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

History suggests that Oliver Cromwell was the 17th Century Grinch Who Stole Christmas – but in fact it was Parliament who made the damning declaration.

The English Civil War was over in 1647, Charles I was imprisoned at Hampton Court – and the Church of England had been replaced by the Presbytarian system, a religious order founded within the Church Of Scotland.

Christmas had already been outlawed there, in 1640 – and it was a similar story in England in 1647, when a law made its way through Parliament banning festivities over Christmas, Easter and Whitsun.

So in effect that meant no decorations, while curbs were placed on festive feasts and booze, as well as celebrations in the home – with fines given out for those who did not comply.

Ultimately the move was a disaster – with riots in Norwich which led to the death of 40 people, and in Kent – where pro-Royalist rebels became involved and which sparked another major insurrection in 1648, which gave rise to what became known as the ‘second civil war’.

This was a series of uprisings in the country between May and August of that year, which ultimately resulted in the execution of King Charles I in 1649.

Other parts of the country flouted the laws against Christmas by putting up decorations in their cities – while shops, which had been ordered to stay open on Christmas Day, closed in London as well as other towns including Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich.

It actually had more to do with Parliament than Cromwell (Picture: Getty Images)

While Parliament attempted to keep the laws in the intervening years while Cromwell was in charge of the country, they did so with little success.

Although they reinforced the ban in 1652, by 1656 it was obvious nobody was paying any attention – with shops shutting and MPs even being kept awake by Christmas parties next door to their lodgings.

Eventually, in 1660, when the monarchy was restored and Charles II took to the throne, the ban was repealed and celebrating Christmas once again became legal.

So you have King Charles II to thank for being able to sit down to your turkey and sprouts every December 25.


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