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  • 19

    The Christmas Uprising of 1648
    History; Posted on: 2008-12-25 11:38:52 [ Printer friendly / Instant flyer ]

    Lest anyone underestimate the power of holidays as cultural and political symbols, consider the events in England in 1647 and 1648. The same joyless beast of political correctness that now attempts to undermine Easter, Christmas and other traditional European festivals reared its ugly head then, and was met with an uprising of armed yeomen in defense of their values.

    Civil disturbances first broke out in London and Canterbury during December 1647 over Parliament's attempt to suppress traditional Christmas celebrations*. In London the lord mayor personally intervened to calm the situation, but at Canterbury the mayor was driven out of the city, along with several magistrates and clergymen. The Kent county committee was obliged to mobilise the Trained Bands to restore order. Extensive rioting broke out during April 1648 in several places around the country, including London, Norwich and Bury St Edmunds, with rioters demanding the return of King Charles to full power. In combination with the Royalist uprising in south Wales, the Engager threat from Scotland and a revolt in the navy, the situation was growing increasingly dangerous for Parliament.

    A Royalist rebellion broke out in Kent after the county committee at Canterbury had attempted to suppress a petition calling for the return of the King and the disbandment of the New Model Army. Canterbury, Rochester, Sittingbourne, Faversham and Sandwich were seized by Royalist insurgents on 21 May 1648. The following day, at a meeting in Rochester attended by many of the local gentry, an armed gathering of Kent Royalists was scheduled to be held at Blackheath on 30 May in support of the petition. On 26 May, Dartford and Deptford were seized by insurgents. A naval revolt broke out on 27 May when ships of the Parliamentarian fleet declared for the King. Threatened from the sea, the three artillery forts that guarded the anchorage of the Downs Deal, Sandown and Walmer surrendered to the Royalists and Dover castle was besieged.

    Lord-General Fairfax had been preparing to march north against the threat of invasion from Scotland. With rebellion so close to London and the danger that the Kent insurgents would be joined by Royalists from Essex and Surrey, Parliament ordered Fairfax to deal with the immediate threat. On 27 May, Fairfax mustered his troops on Hounslow Heath. Colonel Barkstead secured Southwark to the south of London, while the Trained Bands under Major-General Skippon were mobilised to defend the city itself. By 30 May, Fairfax had advanced to Blackheath. On rumours of his approach, the Royalists at Deptford and Dartford dispersed. Leaving a detachment at Croydon to act as a rearguard against any threat from Surrey, Fairfax bypassed the insurgents' stronghold of Rochester and marched for Maidstone where an army of Kent Royalists was assembling on Penenden Heath.

    Full article

    * The Parliament's attempt to suppress Christmas stemmed from the dominant Puritans' ideological positions, which were identical to those in New England, where Christmas was banned by local Puritan decree in Massachusetts in 1659. The ban was repealed in 1681, but Christmas did not become a holiday with official acknowledgement until 1856. In New Hampshire, a 1771 law was known as "An Act To Prevent And Punish Disorders Usually Committed On The Twenty Fifth Day Of December Commonly Called Christmas-Day The Evening Preceeding & Following Said Day And To Prevent Other Irregularities Committed At Other Times." The staid New Englanders were worried about "Loose Idle Persons going about the streets in Companies in a roisterous & Tumultuous manner halooing huzzaing firing guns beating drums to the great disturbance & Terror of many of the inhabitants on the evening Preceeding and evening following said Day and ... the barbarous and inhuman custom of throwing Clubs at Tame Fowl..."

    The Puritan objection to Christmas extended to all other Christian holidays except for Sundays, part of a perennial Christian impulse often called "Judaizing." Judaizers seek to "purify" the religion by making it conform to one degree or another to what the Judaizers believe reflects Jewish traditions from the Old Testament. Judaizing dates back to the New Testament, when the Apostle Paul fought against it, and was expressed through the early heresies of Arianism and iconoclasm. Judaizing often took bizarre forms, from circumcision of Christian infants and giving them Jewish names, to apocalyptic prophesies. In all cases, Judaizing has serious political implications. The Arians opened the door for the Muslim conquest of Spain, while the iconoclasts undermined Byzantine power in the Middle East. Today's Christian Zionists peddle an ideology that could lead to nuclear war, just fine by them because they believe such a cataclysm will herald the Second Coming of Jesus. The Judaizing of the same Puritans who banned Christmas in 1647 went on to Parliament's decision to allow the readmission of Jews, who had been banished by Edward I in in 1290. The Puritan faction known as the Fifth Monarchy Men, the Christian Zionists of the Interregnum, engineered the decision on religious grounds, in the belief that such readmission would hasten the Second Coming.

    The Catholic hating Puritans' specific problem with Christmas was that it perpetuated Roman Catholic "papistical mummery" and, by extension, the pagan roots of the celebration. The famous Increase Mather ranted that Christmas was a "profane and superstitious custom," complaining that Christmas falls when it does not because "Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens' Saturnalia was at the time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian." It is no exaggeration to see comparisons between the Puritans and today's politically correct. In fact, the mindset is identical and, as with Christmas, so are some of the targets.
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