The Plum Pudding Riots

Christmas is a time honoured celebration, however there was a period in British history where the ruling government banned it, and anything associated with it.

The Westminster Assembly, by John Rogers Herbert

The Westminster Assembly, by John Rogers Herbert

Following the defeat of Charles I by Parliamentary forces in the English Civil War, England entered a time when Parliament ruled the nation instead of the monarchy, led by Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell, with Cromwell becoming the official leader of Britain in 1653.

Cromwell was one of the instigators of the puritan movement, a movement that sought to rid Britain of activities that they deemed immoral , sinful, corruptible or non-Christian. More so they saw Christmas as a Roman Catholic celebration with no relevance to the bible.

The Vindication of Christmas, 1652

The Vindication of Christmas, 1652

The Puritans were not in favour of Christmas, in fact they deemed it as a immoral festival that enticed debauchery and excessive drinking, and set about banning all activities relating to Christmas.

It all started with the Christmas ban by parliament, which introduced a religious observance every Sunday, and banned celebrations of Christmas, Easter and Whitsun (Pentecost). This involved a ban on anything remotely associated with celebrating Christmas, including bans on mince pies, plum pudding, church services, and even involved soldiers roaming the streets seizing food by force if they believed it be associated with a Christmas feast.

There were several ministers who ignored the change and decided to preach on Christmas Day, they were all swiftly taken into custody.

The citizens of Canterbury were the first to protest the new actions when the local government implemented actions to prevent the people from celebrating Christmas, such as banning mince pies and ensuring shops had to stay open.

There was one stubborn shopkeeper who refused to open his shop which resulted in him being sent to the stocks, which drew the ire of the citizens and started the riots against the government. Parliamentary soldiers were soon sent to Canterbury to put down the riot, however by this time Kent, Norwich and Ipswich were also up in arms.

Mary people continued to celebrate Christmas in secret, and by the time of his death, Cromwell and the Parliamentarians were widely despised. Even though Cromwell was buried with the King's and Queen's at Westminster, a few years later when the monarchy was re-instated with Charles II on the throne after his return from exile, Charles ordered that Cromwell's body be dug up and posthumously executed as a traitor. They hung Cromwell's dead body on display and later placed his severed head on a spike.

Charles re-instated Christmas once on the throne.