An Ordinance for Abolishing of Festivals [8 June 1647] *
“That the said Feast of the Nativity of Christ, Easter and Whitsuntide and all other Festival days, commonly called Holy-dayes, be no longer observed … within this Kingdom of England …”
In London the military were reported to be patrolling the streets and seizing any items they believed to be used to celebrate Christmas. Town criers walked the streets calling “No Christmas, No Christmas”.
The ban was very unpopular: riots took place in some major cities, including Ipswich where it is reported that one person died.
The ban remained in place for 13 years until 1600 when When King Charles II returned to power and one of his first acts was to repeal all the anti-Christmas legislation, helping foster his image as the “Merry Monarch”.
Was it illegal to eat mince pies on Christmas Day 1647?
The Ordinance for Abolishing of Festivals did not regulate the types of food that could or could not be consumed on Christmas Day, however, previously in 1644, it was actually illegal to eat mince pies on Christmas Day; in that year Christmas Day fell on a Wednesday which had been designated a day of fasting by an Ordinance of 1642 (An Ordinance for the better observation of the monthly Fast).
According to the Law Commission in their paper Legal Curiosities: Fact or Fable?.
“The only Christmas Day on which eating mince pies was illegal was in 1644, as 25 December that year fell on a legally-mandated day of fasting. Subsequently, the Long Parliament of the Interregnum banned all celebrations of Christmas (An Ordinance for Abolishing of Festivals, 1647). However, mince pies themselves were never banned, although they were strongly disapproved of as a symbol of the immoral excesses of the festive season. Further legislation was proposed in 1656 to clamp down on illicit Christmas celebrations, but it was never enacted.”
Open Access book (published June 2021)
In 1645, as the First Civil War approached its end, a second Reformation took place which created profound dislocations in religion and in British society. The Church was disestablished, and godly puritan practices promoted in parish churches and everyday life. Some clergy and parishioners embraced change; others were horrified, experiencing these as times of madness and trouble. Historians continue to debate the extent of the social disruption that resulted, and the impact of godly ideals.
With an introduction from Professor Bernard Capp, pre-eminent social historian of the period, this collection of essays assesses interregnum religious practice at ground level, based on a sophisticated understanding of the complex and unique pattern of record-keeping and survival from the period.
* The Ordinances from 1642 and 1647 are available from the IALS library and are reproduced in the publication Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum 1642-1660, Vol 1 [Classmark RES GA2 E.20] 1969 reprint of the 1911 HMSO version.