We hear these days of a "war on Christmas" and yet it is nothing compared to what happened in England in the mid seventeenth century.
Then, a puritan government was in power. It believed that Christmas was a pagan festival- or at least a Catholic one. Neither suited them as they saw Christmas as merely an excuse for drunkeness and other forms of decadent excess. In 1644, legislation banning Christmas was passed, and ignored.
Because the legislation was largely disregarded, the government issued an order in 1647 to reinforce the law. The order required shops to be open and many churches were padlocked to prevent them from holding a service.
In Canturbury things came to a head. The Mayor made the following proclamation
As you can imagine, this did not go well.
In defiance, the Minister of Saint Andrews church, Rev Aldy, held a service on Saturday the 25th. Outside, puritans could be heard protesting.
Meanwhile, the Mayor, the Sheriff, the town Constable and a guard of pikeman went throughout Canturbury to assure that shops were open. The Royalists, in protest to the puritans tried to force shops to shut. Only a few shops were open. The crowd that followed, took umbrage when the Mayor, finding a shopkeeper who refused to open, ordered him to be taken to the stocks. A fight broke out when the Mayor struck a protester. The mayor, struck in return was dragged by the crowd along the gutter by his feet. When the people were ordered to disperse more people came into the streets, under the guise of playing street football. Football broke out from one end of the town to the other. It was surely mere coincidence that balls were kicked through the windows of puritan houses.
This proved to be only the beginning. The next day was quiet, but on Monday riots started. The Mayor posted guards at the city gates and at the church. When the captain of the guard shot and wounded a protester, the crowd overpowered the guards an jailed the captain.They took over the prison and Town Hall ransacked puritan houses- including the Mayor's house. More Royalist supporters answered the call of the Canterbury Cathedral bell to join the disturbances.
Finally, in early January, the disturbances were ended with the arrival of 3000 roundhead troops. Arrests were made and protesters imprisoned. By May, when the trial opened, the Kent Grand Jury through out the charges and instead, petitioned Parliament to disband the forces commanded by Fairfax. They also, took the opportunity to declare their loyalty to King Charles 1. This did not go well with Cromwell's Parliament. Their response was to outlaw royalist meetings and place troops at key points within Kent. Angered, there was a general royalist uprising in Kent which met defeat in the battle of Maidstone on June 1st 1648
As one can see, the royalist took their plum pudding very seriously!
This post is based on a post from Herb Collector, of the Kent Historical Forum
The Plum Pudding Riots. Christmas 1647
for more on the puritan ban on Christmas see http://www.olivercromwell.org/faqs4.htm
for more about football being used as a symbol of misrule in the 17th century see http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2003-12/uow-hrt121603.php