The year that Christmas was cancelled in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales

 A boy wearing a face mask and Christmas decorative eye glasses at a shopping mall, amid the coronavirus crisis. (Photo by Annice Lyn / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Happy Christmas?. (Photo by Annice Lyn / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)

For the second year running, Christmas has been like few other in living memory.

But regardless of how Brits across the land are able to spend it in 2021, it will be completely different to the time nearly 400 years ago when it was called off entirely.

In 1647, Christmas was banned in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland after the Parliamentarians gained the upper hand over the Royalists in the English Civil War.

These newly governing Puritans, later led by Oliver Cromwell, who would rule the British Isles as Lord Protector, saw Christmas as a Pagan festival and believed it was an excuse for drunkenness, gambling and unruly behaviour.

As a result, they banned gatherings, exchanging presents and decorations such as holly and ivy.

Churches were locked to stop them offering festive services while shops and markets were forced to remain open during the 12 days of Christmas from 25 December to 5 January.

A statue of Oliver Cromwell in Parliament Square, London.
The Puritan government, later led by Oliver Cromwell, saw Christmas as a Pagan festival. (PA)

Martyn Bennett, professor of early modern history at Nottingham Trent University, argues that the political battle over Christmas resulted in a revolution.

The ban led to violent protests as pro-Christmas demonstrators took to the streets, causing looting and rioting in Canterbury, Kent.

Illegal Christmas parties in 1647 and the rioting that followed spilled over into the Second English Civil War in the summer of 1648 and the trial and subsequent execution of King Charles I the following year.

Combatants representing Royalists (L) and Roundheads, or  parliamentarians, re-enact the English Civil War's final Battle of  Worcester on the 350th anniversary of the event September 2, 2001. The  battle, on September 3, 1651, marked the defeat of Royalist forces  under Charles II by the pro-parliamentary New Model Army headed by  Oliver Cromwell. Charles II thereafter fled to France and Cromwell  gained control of England. REUTERS/Chris Helgren    CLH/AA
Christmas was cancelled in 1647 during the English Civil War. (Reuters)

Christmas continued to be banned throughout the English Interregnum, the period between Charles’s execution in 1649 and the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660, when the Puritan Parliament was in power.

Following the Restoration, the Church of England was restored as the country’s national church and Christmas celebrations were allowed to return without suppression.

In a podcast discussing the Christmas ban, Professor Bernard Capp, a historian at the University of Warwick, said: “The Puritan ban had the perverse effect of making Christmas less religious as people still stopped work on the 25 December and secretly treated it as a time to eat, drink and enjoy themselves.”