When Cromwell Made Christmas Illegal!

In 1647, Christmas was made illegal in England, when parliament declared the act of celebrating Christmas a punishable offence.

The demise of Christmas had been long coming. Tensions around the holiday had been bubbling for some time and when England’s civil war broke out in 1642, this all came to a head.

There were two sides to this war, the royalists (cavaliers) and Parliamentarians (round heads), both fighting for the way England was governed.

Now the royalists loved them some festive cheer, but the Parliamentarians, er, not so much. With a strong Puritan presence, they were very vocal on their belief that Christmas was an outdated excuse for debauchery, that had more than a whiff of the old Catholic faith (something they wanted eradicated!)

Spoiler alert: the good time guys didn’t win this war.

During the blood soaked feud, pamphlets prophesying the end of Christmas were released. Rebel puritans started opening shops on Christmas Day (a move so scandalous it caused riots) and in 1645 Parliament released its new Directory for the Public Worship of God, that totally omitted any mention of Christmas, making it (at least from Parliaments view) pretty much religiously void – unless you turned it into a service of piety and humiliation.

Christmas was on its last legs and it’s death nell came in April 1646, when the royalist forces were defeated at battle in Naseby and it became very clear, they were about to lose the war and the Parliamentarians, led by Oliver Cromwell, were going to put England under puritanical rule. As one writer put it:

Christmas was killed at Naseby fight’ 

One year later in 1647, Parliament declared the mere act of celebrating Christmas to be a punishable offence.

Christmas was officially cancelled.

You’re a mean one Mr Cromwell

But the people of England weren’t letting Christmas go without a fight.

On Christmas Day 1647, pro-Christmas riots burst forth from all over England.

A group of Londoners set up holly and ivy decorations and in doing so, had to face down a group of soldiers.

On the same day, Canterbury descended into the fantastically named, Plum Pudding Riots. When locals, aghast at the fact that not only had mince pies been banned, but shops were now open on Christmas Day, decided to rebel in the most English way possible: by holding a mass football game where the main goal was to smash up as much shit as possible.

But riots didn’t bring Christmas back. 

As the ban on Christmas continued, religious services celebrating the birth of Jesus became much more subdued and secretive, with several ministers actually being arrested for their activities.

In 1657 diarist John Evelyn recalled that he was attending a Christmas service at church, when the church was totally surrounded by soldiers. The congregation were held inside and interrogated over what they were praying for.

Eventually most people stopped trying to hold religious services for Christmas The risk just wasn’t worth it!

But do you know what was worth the risk? Christmas carols!

These god damn badasses…

Carols were the double whammy of both being music (banned in churches under the new rule) and Christmassy (so, super banned.) Never before had the act of singing Hark The Heralds been so dangerous.

But clearly carols were still a beloved part of the new underground Christmas. In 1656 during a Christmas Day parliament session (after all, no Christmas equals no day off!) one MP moaned that his neighbours loud carol practising had kept him up all night, meaning he had not had time for:

‘preparation for this ‘foolish day’s solemnity

But then in 1660 there was a Christmas miracle! The monarchy was restored and with King Charles II on the throne that meant 2 things:

1.The end of puritanical rule
2,The return of Christmas!

Christmas was officially un-cancelled!

And the people celebrated in the most English way possible; by enacting exactly why the Puritans banned Christmas in the first place! By eating too much, drinking too much and getting way too merry.

Natasha Tidd is 1/3 of F Yeah History. She’s worked at museums and heritage sites across the UK. A huge history nerd, she will happily talk your ear off about women’s history, over several glasses (be real, bottles) of wine

Tried and Tested: Historic Christmas Recipes

As F Yeah History’s resident baker I’ve been tasked with testing out festive food recipes from across the ages, that you can bring to your next Christmas party.

Because why bring a bottle of wine when you can bring a Tudor cocktail and some Victorian mince pies?

Today we’ll be trying out: 

  • Tudor Butter Beer
  • Stuart Sweet Meats 
  • Victorian Mince Pies
  • 1950s cranberry salad (btw, I am being very kind by calling this a salad) 

So, lets get started!!!!

Tudor Butter Beer – 1588

You read that right – BUTTER BEER  

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Harry potter, history and booze!! THE DREAM

This drink is from 1588s The Good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchen. It’s essentially a caudle, so is designed to both be warming, boozy and medicinal (by Tudor standards…)

First I took 3 bottles of ale (for those UK based folk, I used Black Sheep, as its nice and dark but is still a blank slate for the upcoming flavours!)

Then I popped it on the hob and put in some ground clove, ginger and nutmeg.

Whilst this was bubbling away I whisked 5 egg yolks with 200g of brown sugar, mixed that with the ale and then let it thicken for a bit.

Thats right…this drink contains actual butter..

Once it was nice and thick, I took it off the hob and mixed in 100g butter.I repeat: this recipe calls for you to drink butter. Healthy, the tudors were not.

After getting some nice artery clogging whisked in there, I bought the mix to the boil for 10 mins and then let cool slightly before pouring into glasses: IMG_0922.jpg

Yep…that is full layer of butter floating on top. If Harry Potter and his pals are having this butter beer with every meal…they’re dead at 15.

How did it taste? 

When you get past the butter (by either scooping it out or making sure the beer is always moving…) it tastes ok.

But not ok enough to take minimum one year off my life with every sip.

Out of 10, I give Tudor Butter Beer:
1/10: Because I want to live.


A Dish of Steakes of Mutton, smoored in a Frying-panne – 1615

A huge thanks to the lovely folks at Hampton Court for giving me this Stuart recipe for booze soaked sweet pan fried lamb.

This dish comes from John Murrell’s ‘New booke of Cookerie’ (1615) and has managed to get all festive food stuffs into one dish.

It’s an impressive (if terrifying) combination of sugary sweetness, alcohol, butter and meat. Lets find out if it works!

Here’s the recipe: 

Take your Legge of Mutton cut into Steakes + put it into a Frying-pan, with a pinte of White—Wine, smoore them somewhat browne: then put them into a Pipkin: Cut a lemmon in slices, and throw it in: then take a good quantity of Butter + hold it over the fire: when it is ready to frie put in a handful of Parsley, and when it is fryed, put it into the Pipkin and boyle all together. This Dish should be garnished with Sinamon, Sugar, and sliced Lemmons.

OK, so for this recipe I bought lamb steaks (because fuck carving up a mutton leg):

In a feat of festive peak I’ve tried to make raw meat festive for you…

I tenderised the steaks a bit and then popped a pan on a high heat. When the pan was piping hot I bunged in the lamb and then poured over a pint of white wine.

Whilst the lamb hung out in it’s booze bath I poured myself a nice hefty glass of the left over wine, because we’re only 2 dishes in and already I want to sit down and have a little cry. Image-1-3.jpg

The recipe said to cook the lamb in its wine bath until it’s browned. Now, you guys:

It turns out lamb cooking in white wine smells disgusting. 

But I am nothing if not dedicated, so I febreezed the shit out of my kitchen and nursed the lamb until it turned brown, like a good little Stuart cook would.

Truly I am that hero and you best believe I have the strength to carry on

FINALLY I got to  take the lamb out of it’s wine bath.

Then I refried it with some butter, popped it on a plate and sprinkled over cinnamon and sugar, before finally placing some decorative lemon slices around my masterpiece: Image-1-2.jpg

So how did it taste? 

Not great…but not awful, it was just a very sad kind of meh.

Considering how artery clogging (and stinky) the final product is, it’s a massive bloody let down. If you’re giving your heart that much of a kicking, you at least want some flavour to write home about.

Oh…it also stank out my house and leaves a really nasty aftertaste that stays for around an hour after eating. Impressive when you factor in how blah the actual taste is.

Out of 10 I give A Dish of Steakes of Mutton, smoored in a Frying-panne:A thoroughly underwhelming (but stanky) 3/10 


Victorian Mince Pies – 1854 

Mince pies have been a part of Christmas for yonks; the only difference to todays mince pies? Well, that would be the meat!

For centuries (since the medieval period) sweet was mixed with savoury when it came to pies. During celebrations in particular, pies that were sweetly spiced and meaty were all the rage.

The Victorians were no different and today I’ll be using an 1854 recipe from Eliza Acton; a cook for a big stately home in the UK called Audley End.

Her recipe uses ox tongue, but suggests beef as a replacement. As I was making a beef stew anyway (and I’m pretty sure my local Tesco Metro doesn’t stock tongue) I went with beef! Image-1-4So I slow cooked my beef, then chopped it up into small chunks and set it aside.

Next was the main part: making the rest of the mincemeat. 

Now (no surprise) I’m a giant fucking nerd! So every year I use Eliza Acton’s mincemeat recipe to make a huge batch of Victorian style mincemeat (sans actual meat…) to go in my mince pies. This meant I had some ready to go.

Here’s what goes in it (btw- it makes enough for many many jars worth)900g Raisins, 900g Minced Apples, 900g Suet (you can use shortening as a substitute), 1.1kg Currants, 1.1kg Caster Sugar, 450g Candied Peel, 2 Lemons, Salt, 2 Grated Nutmegs, 1 tbsp Ginger, 1tsp Pounded Mace, 300ml Sherry (or Madeira), 300ml Brandy.

I took some of my ready made mincemeat and mixed in the beef I prepared earlier

Looking delicious..😷

Then I made some simple short crust pastry as suggested in Eliza’s recipe (using lard instead of butter, salt and no sugar because the Victorians love sadness apparently) rolled it out and made it into little pies:

I was going to make 12…but lets be real…nobody is eating 12 of these!

I put them in the oven at 180 for 25 mins and when they came out they looked like this: Image-1-2 copy 2.jpgThey look good! But…

How did it taste? 

Initially ok…and then you got a big ol’ chewey hunk of beef. I didn’t know if this was just me, so I got my boyfriend to taste test this. He spat some out and then proceeded to look very sad for a while after. Not what you want in a festive treat.

Basically these mince pies are the food equivalent of finding out Father Christmas isn’t real.

At first everything is all lovely and cosy and sweet…and then you bite into some secret beef and it’s all wrong; everything you ever knew and trusted about Christmas is gone.

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Anger, sadness, confusion, these mince pies have it all

Out of 10 I give Victorian mince pies: 4/10 because the mincemeat (sans meat) is great… but many points deducted for being a deceitful desert.  


Jellied Cranberry Salad, 1950s 

Now I know what your thinking. These historic christmas dishes have all been great, but what historic festive goodies do I take to a holiday party full of health nuts?

Don’t worry, I got you! 

In the 50s and 60s, companies regularly advertised their products with handy recipe guides. It’s a festive edition of one of these guides, by cranberry sauce company, Ocean Spray, that this next recipe comes from: IMG_0882
Now, the first thing I did to prepare this salad was making some gelatine (standard salad practice)

Once my gelatine mixture was nice and semi-set, I mixed in some chopped pineapple, oranges and of course a hefty lump of cranberry sauce.

Then I left it to set for several hours.

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Half a day later this monstrosity lovely fruit jelly was waiting for me.

Now, I know what your thinking. This doesn’t look like a salad, it’s not going to fly with my healthy friends.

Well check this out: Image-1-4Yeah, that plate is quite literally dripping with jellied health.

So we have leaves and lovely emulsified fruit things, its all looking great, except for one thing…it just isn’t festive!

But don’t worry, the good folks at Ocean Spray thought about that and suggest that you top off your salad with a wonderful cream cheese christmas bow!

This is the best cheese piping work you will ever see!

The best thing about this is that it doubles up as a both a christmas present shaped salad AND a salad that sort of looks like a really sad elephant. That my friends is multitasking.

So how did it taste?

You know what…it tasted fine. It tasted like cranberry jelly with fruit in, which is good, because thats basically what it was.

Admittedly I did scrape the cream cheese christmas bow off, but bar that, fine.

Out of 10 I give jellied cranberry salad: 7/10: It’s the perfect holiday dish to give to people you hate.

This was great! Where can I find out more? Well, if you’d like to see more of me trying out things from history and then immediately regretting all my life choices, you can check out this post: The time I tried out a load of historic lipsticks and had a mini breakdown. 

Creepy Christmas Folklore

It’s Christmaaaaaaaas! Time for presents, stuffing your face and hugging family…


We’re going to  show you why Christmas is one of the creepiest times of the year (with the weirdest Christmas lore from across the globe.


The Krampus gets more recognisable every year, his PR team are working magic.

This demonic fucker-up of tiny children is a Germanic folklore (i.e the most fucked up folklore-IT’S FANTASTIC) Krampy is also one of the oldest on the list!

Shitting kids up since ancient times! Via Giphy

So the legend goes that old Kramps kidnaps and then gorily devours children who’ve been naughty that year.

Festive images of The Krampus ripping up kids have been around for hundreds of years. What a lovely tradition.

Krampus himself looks like the lovechild of Satan and a demonic billy goat.

Think gnarled horns, hooves and a face only a mother could live… If the mother was blind, deaf and had no sense of smell.

So very festive! Makes me feel all warm inside.

In Schlanders (a Germanic city in Italy) it’s still tradition for grown ups to dress as Krampus on Christmas Eve and run around scaring the shit out of children… sign me up please!

After scarring children for life they enjoy a lovely glass of Schnapps by the fire.


The first of some terrifying Icelandic legends, this evil mountain witch has a similar M.O as most Christmas creepies, in that she likes to punish naughty children.

She is an Icelandic giantess with hooves, a wrinkled face and 13 tails.

Damn sneaky kids…

She comes down from the mountains on Christmas eve and kidnaps all the naughty children, taking them back to her home in a giant sack.

Then boils them alive in a stew, which sustains her till the next year.

Tasty AND efficient, this babe does not fuck around!

She also has an equally horrendous extended family!

You’ll meet her sons later in this list, but Grýla also had three husbands… who she murdered because they were shites and they bored her.



Jólakötturinn: The Yule Cat

Cats are dicks. Fact.

This is the biggest dick cat of all: A CAPITALIST LOVING MOGGY NIGHTMARE.

They eat poor children… just poor children.

Now most of us can’t say Jólakötturinn so we just call this bastard ,the Yule Cat, which feels very misleading since their entire thing is slaughtering poor folk.

Capitalist Cat Dick

Lemmie explain: Christmas is a time to celebrate by buying fancy new duds, splurging on a spiffy hat or a shiny new pair of shoes…and if you don’t, this cat will use its particular set of skills to hunt you down and kill you along with your entire family.


Basically this Icelandic folklore was meant to inspire poorer people to work harder during the winter months so they could afford new garments for their family. CAPITALISM FOLKS!

13 Yule Lads

LADS LADS LADS! These guys are the pinnacle of unwanted Christmas guests.

If you thought creepy Uncle Alan was bad then wait till you meet these guys.

These are the spawn of Gryla, y’know the mountain witch!

Meet her asshole children, they’re basically the seven dwarves shit-head cousins.


These guys don’t have the catchy names of Doc, Sleepy and Sneezy, but they are… descriptive, featuring; Spoon-Licker, Sausage-Swiper, Pan-Scraper, Door-Slammer, Window-Peeper (WTF?!), Meat-Hook (My Wrestling name), Gully-Gawk, Stubby, Bowl-Licker, Skyr Gobbler, Doorway-Sniffer and finally Candle-Stealer

Them’s some fucking jazzy names! Get the reference… via Giphy

Firstly they don’t all arrive together, they arrive one day at a time, and you’re stuck with them for 13 days.

They leave some nice prezzies for the kiddlywinks who have been good.

But the bad kids get all their shit fucked up.

Though they don’t murder you, like their dear old Mum does. They kick stuff over and pinch food, just more general oikness


This lovely little Goblin bum nugget comes from Southern European Folklore, jumping out of hiding during the twelve days of Christmas to be a total pain in the arse.

Descriptions of them vary from country to country, but everyone agrees they are ugly as hell and causers of lots of mischief.

What a handsome chap! Via Wikipedia

To keep them away during the 12 days people would light a fire to ward them off or leave a colander outside.

The colander is out there because the Kallikantzaros can’t resist counting stuff apparently… also if they say the number 3 out loud THEY WILL BLOW UP because it’s a holy number.


Via Giphy

Happy Holidays y’all!

Sara Westrop is passionate about making history accessible (and fun!) for everyone. A disabled, queer writer from just outside London, who loves writing about the unsung chapters of history.

4 unheard of Old Hollywood Christmas films guaranteed to fill you with festive Cheer!

It’s officially the run up to Christmas, and you know what that means:

Time to bust out all of the old school Christmas films!!! 

There’s just one problem though. All the true old school Christmas classics kind of have to be saved until Christmas Eve (it’s festive law). So without the It’s A Wonderful Life’s of the world, if you want a black and white film fix, you’re stuck with the 1938 version of Christmas Carol (which is a classic and all, but it’s not the right version of Christmas Carol…)

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Truly the only adaptation of Victorian literature that matters

But suffer no longer! I’ve gathered four of the best old (we’re talking released in 1945 or earlier!) films, that you probably haven’t seen. All are fun and most importantly batshit enough to keep you entertained no matter what level of turkey based food coma you’re in.

So crack open the wine and prepare to mock and love these films in equal measure!

1 – The Shop Around The Corner, 1940

Watch It Because… truly nothing says Christmas like Jimmy Stewart in a suicidal Christmas film!

What’s it about? Set in Budapest, Hungary (as nifty a way for the film studio to seem Euro positive during WW2) the film follows a group of shop-workers; specifically Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan, who can’t stand each other… but *gasp* they are actually secretly falling in love with each other as anonymous pen pals!

The Shop Around The Corner Film Poster
Please don’t judge this film by the nightmare painting of Jimmy Stewart

What makes it so good? If you haven’t guessed yet, 1990s classic, You’ve Got Mail is based on this. BUT the original has two major bonuses over the remake:

1. The romance is waaaay off: Seriously, the romance here is less ‘I bet they have really good angry sex’ and more ‘I bet they have a lot of angry sex followed by crying’. The hatred between these two is real! They should in no way be together and if it doesn’t end in divorce within a year, I’ll eat my santa hat.

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‘I probably wouldn’t have shouted at you so much…probably’

2. It’s festive AS F!! Set in snow capped Hungary with a Christmas Eve kissing session thrown in for good measure, this film is all kinds of cosy!

Plus it also stars Frank Morgan AKA the wizard of oz!

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Look at this guy, his face just screams cosy Christmas!

What’s the downside? Well *spoiler alert* er…The Wizard tries to kill himself. Frank Morgan plays the shop’s owner, who through the course of the film starts off fine, then suspects his wife of having an affair, has a breakdown and attempts suicide.

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Yeeeeah…maybe not one for the kids

Don’t worry though, two days after his suicide attempt the Wizard is back at the shop and everyone just kind of glosses over what happened…making this the ultimate Christmas film for everyone with a massively dysfunctional family.

Where can I watch it? It’s available to rent for not very much at all on Amazon (included in some Prime packages), YouTube and Google Play.

2 – Christmas in Connecticut, 1945

Watch This Because… this screwball comedy with a female lead, somehow manages to both be WAY ahead of its time and yet somehow really outdated…it’s quite an impressive feat!

Christmas in connecticut film poster
The MOST  acting ever captured on one film poster

What’s it about? Barbara Stynwyck plays a career gal writer whose homemaking column has transformed her into the 1940s Martha Stewart.

The only problem? She can’t even make toast!

But when her boss forces her to host a (cute) military hero at her (imaginary) farm for Christmas, Barbara has no choice to make her homemaking fantasy life a reality. Cue much screwball comedy, fake babies, kitchen mishaps and a love triangle.

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The film also contains some of the best/worst double entendres ever committed to film.

So what makes it so good? Well not to be this person…but Barbara’s wardrobe is pretty great. Plus *spoiler ahead* Barbara doesn’t magically become great at homemaking or ditch writing to become a wife. By the end she gets a promotion and gets off with the guy who is totally fine with the fact she can’t cook, clean or change a baby (but he can!)

So what’s the downsides? Well the film is a bit all over the place. Luckily it’s a truly old school screwball comedy so it gets away with it. However, I’d recommend tucking into some mulled wine and creating a Christmas in Connecticut drinking game to get you through the more nonsensical bits.

Where can I watch it? Available on Youtube, Amazon Prime and Google Play.

3 – It happened on fifth avenue, 1947 

Watch It Because… It’s the most screwed over Christmas film in history. It lost it’s director to It’s a Wonderful Life and was beaten to Oscar Glory by Miracle on 34th Street. Basically it had zero luck!

Now finally re-released after decades in the wilderness, this sweet (and weirdly socialist) movie looks set to make an iconic Christmas comeback! It Happened on 5th Ave poster

What’s it about? A rich businessman leaves his plush pad vacant whilst he is out of town over Christmas. Except it’s not empty…because a homeless man has broken in and set up a fancy temporary home there!

Said homeless man invites round his mates, including a a newly homeless war vet and a young female drifter, who turns out to be the real home owners daughter and she’s just pretending to be homeless (bit of a twat move but there we go)

Soon the rich homeowner comes back (now pretending to be homeless, because why not) and learns that about human plight, compassion and to use his wealth to help others.

ithappened on 5th ave image .jpg
I can’t point out who here is actually homeless and who is a prick pretending to be

What’s good? It’s basically a very socialist Christmas! Honestly, one of the story lines involves a group of homeless veterans trying to fund their plan to build mass affordable housing. The film couldn’t be more humanist and socialist if it tried!

The downside? Good luck watching this if you live outside the USA. For real, there is literally no way to watch it legally and that’s super bloody frustrating!

Where can I watch it?  Well if your in the US, you can rent it for a pittance on YouTube, Amazon or Google Play. Not in the US… happy streaming!

4 – Meet me in St Louis, 1944

Watch It Because… nothing says Christmas quite like Judy motherfucking Garland.(And although apparently this is on in America constantly over Christmas,the same cannot be said for the UK) 

What’s it about? The film spends a year following the Smith family, a middle class family at the turn of the century. From spring to winter, we watch as the family are torn apart, pull back together again and generally learn all about family values and love etc etc.

Meet me in St Louis .jpg
Presenting the most camp and loud poster to ever grace the world

Whats good? It’s generally a cracking musical. You have fun numbers, ear worms a plenty and of course – Miss Judy Garland.

On a festive note, the film contains the classic song: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Arguably one of the most under appreciated festive numbers around. Now – For those who don’t know…Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas is the perfect mix of both melancholic and hopeful. During Meet Me in St Louis it’s sang right after this happens:snowman gif.gifWhy yes, that is an emotional little girl murdering a snowman with what looks like a gun.

Judy Garlands character sings ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ to soothe her upset sister (following snowman decapitation gate) With the songs lyrics reminding us that no matter how bad things are right now, things will get better. But until then, if we band together with those we love we can ‘muddle through somehow.’ 

My god doesn’t that seem like the end of year anthem 2019 needs? 

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Where I can watch it? Again, Amazon, YouTube and Google Play have it for less than a cup of coffee. If you live in the UK it is also on SkyCinema

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