A Poem for Twelfth Night - "How the Puritans Stole Christmas"
Yes, it's that time of year again. Christmastide is approaching it's festive conclusion, punctuated by the Twelfth Night revelry. And, of course, that means that it's time, once again, for my traditional Twelfth Night post* : a poem titled "How the Puritans Stole Christmas" ...
... with apologies to Dr. Seuss:
How the Puritans Stole Christmas
Every High-Church Anglican and Catholic
Living in Jolly Olde England
Liked Christmas a lot...
But the Puritans,
Who were infected with Calvinism,
The Puritans hated Christmas!
The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be that their round heads weren't screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, their predestinarian arses were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
Was a distaste for mince pies - shaped like a manger-bed in a stall.
Whatever the reason,
Mince pies or their arses,
The Puritans saw the yuletide celebrations as farces,
Staring down on the festivities with sour, dour frowns
At the merriment and good will of those in the towns.
For they knew all the revelers were engaged in such vices
As eating tarts made of suet and spices.
"And they're eating plum pudding!" they snarled with a sneer.
"Tomorrow is Christmas! It's practically here!"
Then they growled, with their greedy fingers nervously drumming,
"We MUST find a way to keep Christmas from coming!"
For, tomorrow, they knew...
...That the Christmas events
Would involve the consumption of pies made of mince!
And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!
That's one thing they hated! The NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!
Then the revelers, young and old, would sit down to a feast.
And they'd feast! And they'd feast!
And they'd FEAST! FEAST! FEAST! FEAST!
They would start on plum pudding, and rare roast-beef
Foods again giving Puritans nothing but grief!
They'd do something Puritans liked least of all!
Every merry-maker in town, the tall and the small,
Would stand close together, with Christmas bells ringing.
They'd stand hand-in-hand. And they all would start singing!
They'd sing! And they'd sing!
AND they'd SING! SING! SING! SING!
And the more the Puritans thought of the whole Christmas-Sing
The more the Puritans thought, "We must stop this whole thing!
"Why for over sixteen hundred years we've put up with it now!
We MUST stop Christmas from coming!
Then they got an idea!
An awful idea!
GOT A WONDERFUL, AWFUL IDEA!
"We know just what to do!" The Puritans began plot-ting.
And they made civil war against England's King.
And they built up an army, and the Puritans said,
"When we've won this war, we'll remove the King's head!"
"All we need is a ploy..."
To get the job done.
But since kings are kings,
It was difficult to come up with one.
Did that stop the Puritans...?
No! The Puritans said,
"Charges of treason and Romish sympathies will cost him his head!"
So they called a rump court; charges the King refused to refute.
And the court issued the sentence to execute.
They loaded poor Charles
Dressed in clothes resembling sacks
On a ramshakle scaffold
And severed his head with an ax.
Then the Puritans said, "Huzzah!"
For they had brought the King down
And they began to march
On all the churches in town.
All their stain-glassed windows were dark. Quiet filled the air.
All the vestrymen were all dreaming sweet dreams without care
When the Puritans came to the first church in the square.
"This is stop number one," The Puritans hissed
And each Puritan approached shaking his fist.
Then they broke all the stain-glass.
And smashed statues galore.
Their horses dishonored the graves in the floor.
Then they burned all the vestments,
And prayer books, too.
Then they said "Let's move on, we have much to do!"
Father Christmas on Trial
Then they slithered and slunk, with dour looks most unpleasant,
Around the whole town, to despoil places where Christ was once present!
Stained glass! Statuary! Painted images! Candles!
All manner of popish influences that for years had caused scandals!
And they smashed them to pieces and threw them on piles
And set them ablaze, smiling devilish smiles!
Then they turned to the larders. They banned the Yule feast,
The plum pudding, the boar's head, and all toasts to that beast!
They forbade all the foods that had given offense.
And they succeeded in banning the pies made of mince!
The Puritan Ban on Christmas
Then the last thing they took
Was the yule log for the fire.
On the walls they left nothing but hooks, and some wire.
And the one little speck
Left in the church house
Was a crumb that was even too small for a mouse.
They did the same thing
To the other church houses
Much too small
For the other church mouses!
And what happened then...?
Well...in England they say
That the Lord Protector's round head
Grew three sizes that day!
And the minute that "defender of liberty" felt safe from the strife,
He became the Commonwealth's dictator for life!
And he enforced the outlawing of Christmas! And all the foods for that feast!
The Lord Protector ruled the realm like a tyrannical beast!
NB: Christmas was not only outlawed in the British Isles but in parts of colonial America, as well. In 1659, a law was passed by the General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony requiring a five-shilling fine from anyone caught "observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way."
* Originally posted as "A Poem for the Twelve Days of Christmas - 'How the Puritans Stole Christmas' ..." on 3 January 2007, and again on 5 January 2007 under the title "A Poem for Twelfth Night - 'How the Puritans Stole Christmas' ..."
Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
How the Puritans Stole Our Lady
A Song for the End of Christmas
A Song (and a Poem) for the End of Christmas