The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

An Ordinance For The Better Observation Of The Feast Of The Nativity Of Christ

An Act and Order of Parliament

Source: Parliamentary History

December 19, 1644

The English Parliament had previously ordered that the last Wednesday of each month shall be observed as a day of Fasting and Humiliation. In December, 1644, the last Wednesday happened to fall on December 25. The question was, then, whether this shall be a day of Fast or Feast? The following order was an attempt to resolve this quandry.

"Whereas some doubts have been raised whether the next Fast shall be celebrated, because it falleth on the day which, heretofore was usually called the Feast of the Nativity of our Saviour; the lords and commons do order and ordain that public notice be given, that the Fast appointed to be kept on the last Wednesday in every month, ought to be observed until it be otherwise ordered by both houses; and that this day particularly is to be kept with the more solemn humiliation, because it may call to remembrance our sins and the sins of our forefathers, who have turned this Feast, pretending the memory of Christ, into an extreme forgetfulness of him, by giving liberty to carnal and sensual delights; being contrary to the life which Christ himself led here upon earth, and to the spiritual life of Christ in our souls; for the sanctifying and saving whereof Christ was pleased both to take a human life, and to lay it down again."

The lords ordered That the Lord Mayor of London to take care that this Ordinance should be dispersed to all churches and chapels, within the line of communication and the bills of mortality, Afterwards it was made general through the kingdom; in consequence of which Christmas day was no longer observed as Festival, by law, till the Restoration.

I suspect that no Act of Parliament was so widely ignored, at least in private. But there was public opposition, too. See, for example, Warmstry's 1648 tract The Vindication of the Solemnity of the Nativity of Christ and The Arraignment, Conviction, and Imprisonment Of Christmas - 1645

Print Page Return Home Page Close Window

If you would like to help support Hymns and Carols of Christmas, please click on the button below and make a donation.