Imagine how different this time of year would be without Christmas. In the seventeenth century Christmas was, as it is now, a big event: an important religious festival but also a chance to unwind by indulging in eating, drinking, dancing, singing, and all round general excess, of which unfortunately the Protestant Puritans disapproved. This contributed to a deep religious divide which subsequently led to civil war, and in 1649 the Puritans took control of government and, whilst in charge, abolished Christmas. Fortunately, when Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660 all legislation banning Christmas was dropped, allowing Christmas to be celebrated once again with renewed enthusiasm.
|Anon., The Vindication of Christmas. |
London: G. Horton, 1652.
In this 1652 pamphlet the Puritans' attempts to do away with Christmas are described in a tale about Father Christmas visiting Scrooge-like characters in London, and, of course, merry farmers in Devon. On the title page shown here, the man on the left - a fairly unthreatening-looking soldier - warns Father Christmas "Keep out, you come not here", with Father Christmas responding "O Sir, I bring good cheere". On the right, a friendly countryman says "Old Christmas welcome; Do not fear".
|King, Josiah. The examination and tryal of old Father Christmas. |
London: Charles Brome, 1686.
He is ultimately acquitted of having "...abused the people of this Common-wealth, drawing and inciting them to drunkenness, gluttony, and unlawful gaming, wantonness, uncleanness, lasciviousness, cursing, swearing, abuse of the creatures, some to one vice, and some to another; all to idleness...". Phew!