The prospect of aChristmas without big celebrationschases after the heads. After thiswidespread abolition of pantomimes, festive light “switch on” andother community activitiesIt’s likely that the 2020 celebrations will be a lot more intimate, possibly withHouseholds are not allowed to mix indoors.
But what if families ignore distancing rules, should they stay in place and party together instead of zooming in? Politicians who crack down on rule violations may want to remember a previously restricted Christmas season.
As early as 1647, Christmas was banned in the kingdoms of England (which at the time was Wales), Scotland, and Ireland, and it didn’t work very well. After a total ban on everything festive, from decorations to gatherings, riots broke out across the country. While some activities took the form of defiantly hanging on holly, others were far more radical and had historical ramifications.
Christmas is canceled
In 1647 the parliament had won Civil war was in England, Scotland and Ireland and King Charles held captive at Hampton Court. The Church of England had been abolished and replaced by a Presbyterian system.
The Protestant Reformation had restructured the churches in the British Isles and the holy days, including Christmas, were abolished.
The usual festivities over the 12 days of Christmas (December 25th to January 5th) were considered unacceptable. Shops had to stay open throughout the entire Christmas period, including Christmas Day. Displays of Christmas decorations – holly, ivy, and other evergreen plants – have been banned. Other traditions, such as feasting and celebratory consumption of alcohol, which were consumed in large quantities then as now, were also restricted.
However, Christmas Day did not go smoothly. People across England, Scotland and Ireland broke the rules. In Norwich, the mayor had already received a petition asking for a Celebration of a traditional Christmas festival. He couldn’t allow this to happen in public, but ignored illegal celebrations across the city.
The usual Christmas soccer game was played in Canterbury and festive holly bushes stood on the doorstep. During the Christmas 12 days, the party had to be spread across Kent and the armed forces had to be deployed to end the fun.
Christmas Day was celebrated in the heart of Westminster and the parish guards of St. Margaret’s Church (which is part of Westminster Abbey) were arrested for not finishing the party. The streets of London were covered with holly and ivy and the shops were closed. The Mayor of London was berated for trying to tear down the Christmas decorations with the help of the city’s battle-hardened veterans regiments.
Ipswich and Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk also celebrated Christmas. Young men armed with spiked clubs patrolled the streets and persuaded the shopkeepers to stay closed.
It wasn’t just about experiencing the fun of the season, grabbing guns and breaking the rules. The fight against the Christmas ban was a political act. Things had changed and the Christmas uprising was as much a protest against the “new normal” as it was against the ban on fun. People were fed up with the series of limitations and financial hardships that came with the Presbyterian system and the aftermath of the Civil War.
The worst Christmas hangover
The aftermath of the Christmas riots in Norwich was the most dramatic. The mayor was called to London in April 1648 to explain that he had not banned the Christmas celebrations, but a crowd closed the city gates to prevent him from being taken away. The armed forces were deployed again, and in the ensuing riots, the city’s ammunition magazine exploded, killing at least 40 people.
Norwich wasn’t alone. In Kent, the grand jury ruled that the Christmas party rioters had no choice but to respond to the law, and the county rebelled exuberantly against Parliament. Royalists took advantage of the popular discontent and began to organize the rioters.
In 1647 and 1648, the parties successively led to unrest. These riots led to riots which in turn gave rise to the Second Civil War that summer. King Charles was tried and executed after his defeat in the war. This led to a revolution and Britain and Ireland became a republic – all because of Christmas.
This Christmas police across the country ready to enforce COVID regulations and break out gatherings. While the pandemic is doing things differently and the rules are primarily against safety, politicians have learned from the aftermath of the last Christmas cancellation.
As in 1647, many people today are tired of government restrictions. Many also have financial difficulties due to COVID regulations. Some may rail against the idea of ending a miserable year under what they consider to be contradicting restrictions on family fun.
Such a situation must be handled carefully. There has already been civil disorder Lock. Vaccines appear to be coming in the new year But the last thing the country needs is more unrest. Again, the government must weigh the health risks against other societal challenges posed by this pandemic.