As if 2020 is not bizarre and tyrannical enough, a number of state authorities, using COVID as a pretense, of course, are attempting to cancel Christmas. To be exact, they are attempting to outlaw gatherings, even family gatherings, that are a customary part of the religious and secular observance of Christmas. They would do well to consider the example of the English Puritans in that regard – the negative example.
1647 was the pivotal year in the Puritans’ war on Christmas. They had defeated King Charles in the First Civil War and had him confined at Hampton Court. The Parliament, dominated by Puritans, was in control of the government. And it so happened that Christmas that year was on the last Wednesday of the month, which the Puritans had as a fast day, not a popish feast day like Christ-mass. So the Puritan authorities had to make some choices, and they made wrong and foolish ones. The Parliament proscribed various celebrations of Christmas and required shops to stay open on December 25th.
Many had already had quite enough of Civil War disruptions and of busybody Puritan rule, including making worship more drab and filled with long sermons and eliminating a number of holy days. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that if anything in or out of church was beautiful or fun, it was in danger of being eliminated by the Puritans.
So normal people were in no mood to comply with having their Christmas celebrations taken away as well. Non-compliance was both joyous and angry and even became violent, as in Norwich and Kent. In some towns, shopkeepers were put in an impossible situation; Puritan authorities required they stay open on Christmas while resisters demanded they close. Some who stayed open had their goods trampled in the street.
Efforts to punish those who did not comply with the anti-Christmas laws only served to make rebellion more angry and violent.
The aftermath of the Norwich Christmas riots was the most dramatic. The mayor was summoned to London in April 1648 to explain his failure to prohibit the Christmas parties, but a crowd closed the city gates to prevent him from being taken away. Armed forces were again deployed, and in the ensuing riots, the city ammunition magazine exploded, killing at least 40 people.
Norwich was not alone. In Kent, the grand jury decided that the Christmas party-going rioters had no choice but to answer to the law and the county went into exuberant rebellion against parliament. Royalists capitalised on the popular discontent and began organising the rioters.
The Puritans could only blame themselves. They were managing to make Charles I look good.
Lives were lost in riots at Ipswich, skulls were broken in Oxford, there were disturbances in Ealing, and ten thousand men of Kent and Canterbury passed an ominous resolution: “If they could not have their Christmas day, they would have the King back on his throne.”
Cancelling and even punishing Christmas thereby contributed to the Second Civil War flaring up and to lasting resentment against the Puritans for years, nay, generations.
Now a civil war is unlikely today in the United States. Yet in many ways, the provocations from tyrants, mainly of a predictable political party, exceed those of the Puritans. After repeated shutdowns of small businesses, lost jobs, stolen freedom, an apparently stolen election, and lies, lies, lies, do the tyrants really want to provoke us further by restricting or cancelling Christmas? Are they really that pig-headed? Is their contempt for us that great?
Do they really think they will get away with it?
We shall see. But I say put the tyrants in their place for a change and have a Merry Christmas.