Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas 2011: Quotes from The Empress of Ice Cream by Anthony Capella

One of the fascinating things about reading historical fiction is seeing how differently things that we take for granted now were treated in the past. I found this passage interesting as it is set at the time of the Restoration to the English throne of Charles II, not long after the Commonwealth ended. During this time, the celebrating of holy and feast days associated with the Catholic church was frowned upon, including Christmas.

This passage comes from page 243 of Anthony Capella's The Empress of Ice Cream

I told Elias we would be spending the winter out at Hampton and his face fell.

"What is it, boy?"

He said hesitantly, "It is just that we will  miss Christmas."

"Elias!" his mother said, overhearing. "Christmas! What is this I hear?"

He hung his head in shame. "Some of the other children are saying that it will be a holiday."

Without asking my permission, she whisked him off into a corner. I thought she must be scolding him over his lack of enthusiasm for his work, until I realised that her objection was a different one. She was trying to speak quietly, but anger made her voice carry.

"... bad enought that you work for a papist. But I will not be celebrating papist festivals as well. Now be off with you, and no more talk of Christmas."
and then later....

"You don't celebrate Christmas, I take it?" I said neutrally.

"We do not."

"May I ask the reason?'

"Under the Protector, it was seen that there was no need for it."

"Whereas the Protector's own birthday, no doubt, was a public holiday?"

She glared at me. "Show me where in the Gospels it says that December the twenty-fifth is Christ's birthday, and we will celebrate it. Until then the Sabbath is enough Lord's Day for us."


  1. This sounds like a wonderful book. I've had it on my wishlist for a while, but this makes it even better! Thanks for the quotes!!

  2. That's true, we do like comparing our traditions now with those of the past. Imagine no Christmas though :(

  3. Yes, Christmas as celebrated through the medieval and Tudor periods was killed stone dead by the Puritans. It was only during the 19th century, when the Victorians became obssessed with the medieval period that the old customs were revived. The Christmas tree, of course, was a German custom and came to England with Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's consort.

  4. For those interested, this article from "History Today" magazine details the Puritan campaign to stamp out Christmas:
    Lords of Misrule: The Puritan War on Christmas 1642-60