A Very Merry Restoration Christmas

Title: The merry boys of Christmas, or The milk-maids new-years-gift. Date: 1660 Reel position: Tract Supplement / A6:2 24

Title: The merry boys of Christmas, or The milk-maids new-years-gift. Date: 1660 Reel position: Tract Supplement / A6:2 (24)

A few posts back, I wrote [here] about how Christmas was banned in England from 1647 up until the restoration of King Charles II in 1660 and that despite the ban it was not killed off by the puritans. The survival of these traditions can be seen in the ease at which the festivities kicked back in at the King’s restoration.

The above ballad, ‘The Merry Boys of Christmas’, is an example of how the traditional festivities were openly and publicly celebrated in December 1660. I’ll sign up for Christmas beer, not so much the plum porridge though.

Feel free to sing along:

(found via Mercurius Politicus)

The joyful reintegration of Christmas was not simply due to a hankering after festive spirit, it was a clear political and religious message and was part of the backlash against the puritan movement. The following extract from a pamphlet celebrating the return of the Stuarts uses Christmas as an example of their opposition to the previous regime (the Elect):

Our mirth and good company shall not bée checkt
By such as do nickname themselves the Elect
But wee will bee merry, and spend an odd teaster
At Christmas, at Whits[…]ntide, Shrovetide and Easter
Wee’l play our old pranks
Rejoyce and give thanks
And those that oppose wee will cripple their shanks
May all the rich pleasures that ever were reckon’d
Attend on the Person of King Charls the second.

Title: Englands joy in a lawful triumph. Date: 1660 Reel position: Wing / 2687:07

The publishing rottweiler of the Restoration period, Roger L’Estrange also drew on the return of the festivals to illustrate the difference between the old and new regimes:

Your Major-General-Archy was an admirable Form of Govrnment: So was your Rump-archy. Clap a man up, and never let him know his crime, nor his Accuser, — declare a Man uncapable of serving in Parliament, for having Bayes in his Windows, or a Minced Pye in Christmas…

Author: L’Estrange, Roger, Sir, Title: L’Estrange his apology with a short view of some late and remarkable transactions leading to the happy settlement of these nations under the government of our lawfull and gracious soveraign Charles the II whom God preserve / by R. L. S. Date: 1660  Reel position: Wing / 257:E.187[1]

The previous pattern of Christmas celebration was reintroduced in 1660. The festive period was divided into three key celebrations that took place over the twelve days of Christmas. It began with Christmas Day (the holy day), then New Years Day (a festive day) and ended with Twelfth Night (a carnival). Pepys and John Evelyn both spent most of this period attending and hosting meals and sociable events. Charles II brought back the royal balls and parties from his fathers era, though apparently with a greater emphasis on gambling and less on odd court masques. However, it is quite clear that despite having been banned for many years the people of England slipped quite comfortably back into their Christmassy ways. Good for them *raises a mince pie & Christmas beer*


2 thoughts on “A Very Merry Restoration Christmas

  1. Pingback: A Christmas Cracker | The Early Modern Intelligencer

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