Tag Archives: Oliver Cromwell

Goose, elk, and Pepys’ Christmas dinner

By Bob Hicks

“How do you feel about elk meat for Christmas dinner?” Mr. Scatter casually asked the Older Educated Daughter over the phone.

The long hesitant pause, coupled with the complication that several of us no longer eat any sort of mammal or fowl, anyway, suggested that a nice fat slab of salmon should be added to the oven on the 25th. But we’ll also be cooking up those thick elk steaks, which wandered into our freezer via one of Mrs. Scatter’s fabled pickle swaps.

Randolph Caldecott, illustration of "The Christmas Dinner" from "The Sketch Book" by Washington Irving; 1876.Here at Chez Scatter, the arrival of Christmas always includes a good deal of flutter over food. How many people will we be this year? Who eats meat and who doesn’t? What recipes have we been longing to try? How traditional and how daring are we going to be?

A few things are non-negotiable: the good cheeses, the platters of pickles, the mounds of mashed potatoes, the cranberry-orange sauce with a dash of port. A dressing is essential: this year we’re leaning toward a mixed-mushroom and cornbread version.

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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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