A search in the House of Commons Journals Indexes dated 1547-1659 reveals that, for a period, Christmas was cancelled by order of the government.
Resolved, That no Observation shall be had of the 25th Day of December, commonly called Christmas Day, nor any Solemnity used or exercised in Churches, upon the Day, in respect thereof.
The extract above (dated 24th December 1652) from our collections shows the House of Commons ordering that the shops remain open on the 25th December, and that shopowners were to be protected from ‘wrong or violence’ from any protesters.
The order continues that ‘no observation shall be had [on the day] commonly called Christmas Day’ and that churches were to hold no special services or ceremonies to mark the occasion.
At the bottom of the extract we can see that the Houses of Parliament were operational the following day, both a Saturday and Christmas Day, to attend to general matters of parliamentary business.
So why was Christmas cancelled? In seventeenth century society there was a strong feeling amongst the more puritanical that the celebrations around Christmas were wholly un-Christian. In the quote from 1656 below, written by Samuel Chidley to Oliver Lord Protector (Oliver Cromwell) Samuel clearly feels the government has not gone far enough, imploring them to work harder at putting an end to Christmas festivities:
“The Antichristian sect of Christmas-mongers is … to be rooted out … [Christmas celebrations] have over-spread the Nations like a Gangrene.
Why do the fleshly-minded Gentiles feed themselves with such fancies, of their own imaginations, and reproach others that will not dance with them about such Calves of invention? A foolish people! Who hath bewitched them? For they have not the true Christ, neither do they serve him, but their own bellies. For Christ was not as they set him forth to be. He was no Mass-monger or belly God. No drunkard. He wanted neither cards, dice, nor tables to play with, to pass away the time, nor Lord of mis-rule to take his place. He needed no new Games to make him merry, no Holly or Ivy to dress his windowes, nor mistletoe to conjure his lovers, nor other toys to please his fancy, or blindfolded fools, or Hot Cockle payers to make him sport.
Therefore it is humbly desired by the well-affected, That the Parliament would with great severity punish the profanation of the Lords day &. decree, That no Christmas-day, or such like fooleries, be set in the Almanacks, or observed.”
The fact that shopowners required protection for opening on Christmas day shows that the feeling against Christmas were not universal, and there was anger amongst the population at the suppression of their Christmas celebrations. It took around two decades and a new monarch before the ban was lifted and celebrations began once more.
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Chidley, S. (1656) ”A Christian plea Against Chrismass and an out-cry against Chrismas-mongers” Available to staff and students of Glasgow University via Early English Books Online.