Christmas is a time for celebration but the festive season was once banned in England for almost 20 years, sparking a second Civil War.
University of Warwick historian Professor Bernard Capp said the ban was put in place by the Puritan government in 1647 as they believed Christmas was used as an excuse for drunkenness, promiscuity, gambling and other forms of excess.
In the first half of the 17th Century, the 25th of December was a public holiday and all places of work would close. People attended special church services and public places were decorated with holly, rosemary and Ivy. Celebrations included dancing, singing, drinking and exchanging presents. Festive feasts included roast beef and mince pies.
Puritans saw Christmas as a Pagan festival and claimed the 25th December was not a named day in the bible. They enforced the ban on Christmas and all shops and markets had to stay open and many churches were locked to prevent them holding a Christmas service.
The public responded violently to the ban and there were disturbances across the country. One of the worst hotspots was Canterbury where violent looting and rioting broke out the first Christmas after the ban was imposed.
Professor Capp said: “The repercussions of the rioting at Canterbury led eventually to a rebellion and a second Civil War. The Puritan ban had the perverse effect of making Christmas less religious as people still stopped work on the 25th December and secretly treated it as a time to eat, drink and enjoy themselves.”
To find out more, listen to Professor Capp’s podcast
Notes to editors
For more information contact Kelly Parkes-Harrison, Communication Officer, University of Warwick, firstname.lastname@example.org, 02476 574255, 07824 540863