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 With a strong Puritan presence, they were very vocal on their belief that Christmas was an outdated excuse for debauchery, that had more than a whiff of the old Catholic faith (something they wanted eradicated!)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
AND
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

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…)

muppet christmas carol gif.gif
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.

the shop around the corner gif
‘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!

the wizard gif.gif
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.

Frank Morgan crying gif.gif
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.

christmas in connecticut gif .gif
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? 

yes judy!.gif

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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