I'd like to wish every reader a happy holiday season and I hope that wherever you are, the weather isn't too extreme, though some readers might be enjoying unseasonably balmy temperatures. Sadly that isn't the case where I live. Here's the scene from my front door this morning! It's going to be a truly white Christmas.
Speaking of Christmas, I've been doing some research for my latest historical novel and I stumbled upon some really interesting info about the holiday season. I've focused specifically on the period in England after the Civil War that raged from 1642-51 between the Royalists - supporters of King Charles I - and the Parliamentarians, headed by Oliver Cromwell. The result in a nutshell? The Parliamentarians, with their "model army" led by brilliant soldier, Cromwell, prevailed and the King was arrested and subsequently beheaded on the 30th January, 1649 outside Whitehall Palace, London. Cromwell eventually became Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland from 1653-1658.
So what does this have to do with Christmas? Well, leading up to and during the period that the Parliamentarians were dominant, they basically outlawed Christmas and set out to prevent everyone else from celebrating the traditional Yuletide season. Cromwell and his followers were strict Puritans who believed the celebration of Christmas was tainted by "trappings of popery and rags of the beast."
They went even further, calling all the old rituals vain, sinful and idolatrous. They outlawed traditions like decorating the home and church with rosemary, bay, holly, ivy and mistletoe; exchanging gifts, distributing Christmas boxes to servants, tradesmen and the poor; preparing and consuming massive great feasts of brawn, roast beef, "plum pottage", mince pies and Christmas ale; dancing, singing, card games, stage plays and mummers were . Puritan politicians preached:
"the sins of our forefathers have turned this Feast, pretending the memory of Christ, into an extreme forgetfulness of him, by giving liberty to carnal and sensual delights".
While it was true that Christmas celebrations often led to drunkenness, promiscuity and other forms of excess, most citizens looked forward to the season as a time to "let loose" and therefore guarded the season fiercely.
During the 1650's, Parliament passed one bill after another to try and stamp out Christmas celebrations in London and the rest of the country. Merchants were instructed to open on Christmas day as well as markets. At one point Cromwell sent soldiers out into the London streets to arrest Christmas revellers and even to rip roasting geese from offending ovens. But he hadn't bargained with the backlash. Mobs of apprentices attacked shopkeepers and market vendors trying to do business on Christmas day.
Also many pro-Christmas satires were written including one titled, A Vindication of Christmas by Royalist poet, John Taylor. In it, Old Father Christmas returns to England after being chased out by the dour Puritan policies. Another contains a rhyme that was taken up in taverns and marketplaces by those who wanted their jolly Christmas celebrations back:
For as long as I do live
And have a jovial crew
I'll sit and rhat, and be Fat
And give Christmas his due.
After Cromwell died and Charles II was restored to the throne, Christmas was brought back in all its glory and revelry, ending that strange interlude in British history when Christmas was outlawed.
ANOTHER REVIEW APPEALJust before I sign off I'd like to ask you all - if you've read any of my books and enjoyed them, please, please write a review on Amazon.com, Amazon UK and Goodreads. It doesn't have to be long! Reviews are currency in the self-publishing world!
Have a relaxing holiday season and Happy Reading