Did Oliver Cromwell ban Christmas or is this an unfounded rumour?
The short answer is very possibly. He seemed to have a finger in the mix. After all he was the Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland from 1653-58! Without that office would Christmas have remained a free expression of faith, especially for Catholics? He naturally disliked anything Catholic or relating to the Roman Catholicism especially the Pope.
A Cromwellian Christmas
It's certainly true that, during Cromwell's reign as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland (1653-58), stricter laws were passed to catch anyone holding or attending a special Christmas church service. From 1656, legislation was enacted to ensure that every Sunday was stringently observed as a holy day - the Lord's Day. By contrast, shops and markets were told to stay open on 25 December, and in the City of London soldiers were ordered to patrol the streets, seizing any food they discovered being prepared for Christmas celebrations. - Did Oliver Cromwell Really Ban Christmas?
What part he played in the legislation of banning Christmas is not truly known but until his death in September 1658 he supported the enforcement of the existing measures and thus implemented the ban.
Could Christmas have been banned without his position as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland (1653-58) is dubious at best.
Oliver Cromwell was born in Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire in 1599, and was Member of Parliament for the town for a year (1628-29).
The first ‘carols’ had been heard in Europe thousands of years before, the word probably deriving from the French carole, a dance accompanied by singing. These tended to be pagan songs for events such as the Winter Solstice, until the early Christians appropriated them: a Roman bishop in AD 129, for example, decreed that a carol called Angel’s Hymn be sung at a Christmas service in Rome. By the Middle Ages, groups of ‘wassailers’, who went from house to house singing during the Twelve Days of Christmas, had at their disposal many hundreds of English carols featuring nativity themes and festive tropes such as holly and ivy. Even King Henry VIII (1491-1547) wrote a carol called Green Groweth the Holly, whose beautiful manuscript can be seen in the British Library. The phrase ‘Christmas caroll’ is mentioned in an early Latin-English dictionary, and one of the great lyric 17th Century poets, Robert Herrick, wrote a carol text beginning: “What sweeter music can we bring?” The original music by Henry Lawes is sadly lost, but a contemporary setting of the poem by John Rutter is a modern seasonal favourite, proving just how evergreen the tradition of carol-writing is.
To Cromwell and his fellow Puritans, though, singing and related Christmas festivities were not only abhorrent but sinful. According to historical sources, they viewed the celebration of Christ’s birth on 25 December as a “popish” and wasteful tradition that derived – with no biblical justification – from the Roman Catholic Church (‘Christ’s Mass’), thus threatening their core Christian beliefs. Nowhere, they argued, had God called upon mankind to celebrate Christ’s nativity in such fashion. In 1644, an Act of Parliament effectively banned the festival and in June 1647, the Long Parliament passed an ordinance confirming the abolition of the feast of Christmas.
But the voices and festive spirits of English men, women and children were not to be so easily silenced. For the nearly two decades that the ban on Christmas was in place, semi-clandestine religious services marking Christ’s nativity continued to be held on 25 December, and people continued to sing in secret. Christmas carols essentially went underground – although some of those rebellious types determined to keep carols alive did so more loudly than others. On 25 December 1656, a a member of parliament in the House of Commons made clear his anger at getting little sleep the previous night because of the noise of their neighbours’ “preparations for this foolish day…” Come the Restoration of the English monarchy in 1660, when legislation between 1642-60 was declared null and void, both the religious and the secular elements of the Twelve Days of Christmas were allowed to be celebrated freely. And not only had the popular Christmas carols of previous eras survived triumphant but interest in them was renewed with passion and exuberance: both the 18th Century and Victorian periods were golden eras in carol-writing, producing many of the treasures that we know and love today – including O Come All Ye Faithful and God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen. - When Christmas Carols were Banned
I will let others decide this question, but it it does look like he had a hand in this whole affair in banning Christmas. He was also a Puritan was he not. Christmas was banned in 1656 and he was after all Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland from 1653-1658.
He disliked everything Catholic or popish!
Cromwell's hostility to the Irish was religious as well as political. He was passionately opposed to the Catholic Church, which he saw as denying the primacy of the Bible in favour of papal and clerical authority, and which he blamed for suspected tyranny and persecution of Protestants in continental Europe. Cromwell's association of Catholicism with persecution was deepened with the Irish Rebellion of 1641. This rebellion, although intended to be bloodless, was marked by massacres of English and Scottish Protestant settlers by Irish ("Gaels") and Old English in Ireland, and Highland Scot Catholics in Ireland. These settlers had settled on land seized from former, native Catholic owners to make way for the non-native Protestants. These factors contributed to the brutality of the Cromwell military campaign in Ireland. - Oliver Cromwell (Wikipedia)
Historical Fun Note
Is there any evidence to suggest Oliver Cromwell was a complete "Scrooge"?
As we know that Charles Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge seems to have been a name taken from a tombstone in Scotland. Alas, Cromwell may have been a Scrooge, but he certainly not Ebenezer Scroggie
During a visit to Scotland that same year, Dickens visited Greyfriar Kirkyard, Edinburgh’s oldest cemetery. While walking among the headstones, Dickens came across a marker that read: “Ebenezer Scroggie, Meal Man”. It wasn’t uncommon for gravestones to cite the person’s job in life, and “meal man” was simply another term for corn merchant. However, Dickens misread the marker as “mean man” and asked a companion what one could have done in life to deserve such a comment even after death.
Cromwell may or may not have been a Scrooge, but he was mean!