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When Cromwell canceled Christmas

By Bob Hicks

It wasn’t just the theater that merry King Charles II restored when he reclaimed the British throne for royalty in 1661. He brought back Christmas, too.

Robert Walker, Portrait of Oliver Cromwell, ca. 1649. National Portrait Gallery, London/Wikimedia Commons.Many Scatterers undoubtedly know that when Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans took over power in England in 1645, not all that long after William Shakespeare’s heydey, they put a quick end to all that decadent theatrical nonsense (but apparently not, as the accompanying portrait of Cromwell reveals, to decadent ribbons and bows).

In 1644, Cromwell forced a bill through Parliament banning all Christmas celebrations, too: they were too popish, he proclaimed darkly, and besides, people shouldn’t be having that much fun. As Alan Rickman so brilliantly snarled as the villainous Sheriff of Nottingham in the 1991 movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves: “And call off Christmas!”

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