I will be the first to admit that I am not the biggest fan of this time of year. As well as doing a lot of good it also seems to bring out the greedier, competitive and over commercialized side of modern living which I find a lot less appealing. It also by passes true meaning of Christmas.
Upon pondering this, I found myself thinking about the Parliamentarians and Oliver Cromwell and their puritanical ban on Christmas, during the republican experiment of the mid 17th century. Incidentally it was on today, 16th December 1653, 358 years ago, that Oliver Cromwell was created Lord Protector of England, a king in all but name.
Under the puritan Parliamentarians, Christmas like many other saints days and festivals was seen as a unchristian, in that the partying was taking away from their true meaning. They were also seen as being too Catholic. The only Christian part of many of these festivities, Christmas included was attending church. That too was seen as too Catholic as no where in the bible does it instruct you to celebrate the birth of Christ in this way.
The Christmas festivities traditionally lasted for 12 days and were full of drinking, eating and general merry making and partying. That of course could lead people to fall in to immoral behaviour. It was as seen to go against Puritan sensibilities as it was seen to be extravagant and waste of money. So the elected puritan parliament outlawed and banned feast and Saints day’s celebrations, Christmas amongst them.
Not surprisingly the ban was unpopular with the nation and many ignored the law. Feasting and merrymaking at this time of year of course goes back to before Christianity came to Britain, when pagans used this time to mark an important point in the farming calendar. It is a time to take stock of the year that’s been and enter into the next, celebrate the hard work that has happened at the most dark and cold point in the year; when it is most needed, as we all know only too well ourselves.
Now don’t get me wrong I don’t dislike Christmas per say, I just think that there is a happy medium to be found between the two extremes of Oliver Cromwell and the commercial, greed driven, OTT Christmas’s of today. For many it can be the loneliest time of the year, it can be isolating and sad. This year will also see many seeing this as additional cost they can not afford; it will be these people that I raise my glass to over Christmas dinner this year. It’s surprising how history can help us put things into perspective. Wherever you are and whatever your doing have a very Merry Christmas!