What are the dangers of tinsel? I have known of dogs and sometimes cats eating it. Not that I have carried out a scientific study of course, but the results of tinsel eating would be festive, shiny droppings. Brightens up a dog walk, I say. Perhaps the bright metallic colours in some varieties have blinded people. Maybe some folk have become tangled up in the stuff or the strands have been too sharp and cut fingers. But these were not the reasons why it was banned in the seventeenth century.
Tinsel was banned because it was a symbol of fun at Christmas. And believe it or not, Christmas was not about fun then. The reigning King Charles loved the Christmas glitz and fully engaged in the celebrations of Christ’s mass to celebrate His birth. But he had his head cut off after being found guilty of treason. So on this day in 1653 Oliver Cromwell became the leader of England as head of the Parliamentarians, the only time England was republic.
Cromwell was a Puritan, which means that he believed people should live pure and good lives. The main principle was that Puritans should work hard and avoid frivolity in order to get to heaven. Christmas was renamed ‘Christ-tide’ to disassociate the sinful Catholic celebration of Christmas. Frivolity included mince pies, theatre, wearing make-up and even going to church on Christmas morning. Just in case anyone enjoyed it.
When Cromwell died he was buried at Westminster Abbey like many other kings. Then the people of England, Wales and Scotland had a think. Cromwell’s son took over as leader, just as monarchs do. They realised that the king had been replaced by someone who ruled them with a much sterner rod. They invited King Charles’ son to come back and return their country into a sovereign one again.
Running a country is a busy job and nobody thought to repeal all of the silly laws that banned Christmas decorations. Fortunately I don’t think police are aware of all us law-breakers. Or maybe they have a backlog of cases.
The 16th December is also the anniversary of the Boston Tea party, when the Americans decided to throw the imported tea into the sea. This was a protest against the tax policy of Britain and the East India Company who controlled all of the tea imports in the colonies of the British Empire. This defiant act in 1773 was one of the key events leading up to the American Revolution and probably explains why, on the whole, Americans are a nation of coffee drinkers as opposed to the British tradition of drinking tea.
To me, this date is a scary one. I love tinsel and could not survive without tea. My ancestors did not move to America, but they could have. So, as the saying goes, there but for the grace of God. I will drink my tea in a cup tied with tinsel today. Hey, I think I will do that until new year.
(c) 2012 A.J. Sefton