Then, in one of the most exciting historical discoveries since a certain Long Stay Car Park abuser, scholars at the British Library found a cache of documents, which had been specifically made up for the purpose, containing precise details of the festivities in the age of Charles II.
Here, then, is what they tell us. A genuine, wholly authentick, breakdown of a Restoration Christmas.
12th November In the first sign of the approach of Christmastide, the East India Company publishes a heartwarming advert in the London Gazette telling the story of a young ship’s lad who captures a St Helena penguin. For some reason this makes you want to buy clothes.
A couple of days later The Grocers’ Company produces heartwarming advert about an occasion when Roundheads and Cavaliers downed their muskets for Christmas and played each other at stool-ball. A group of Prussian mercenaries won 3-2.
Last Thursday of November Ye Giving of Thanks. Recent addition to the Christmas calendar, in which English people show gratitude for the migration of all their religious nutters to America.
The Next Day Black Fryday. Similarly recent tradition in which people riot not because of the high price of bread, but the low price of Apples and Blackberries.
December 1st First article appears in Mercurius Sanctimonius about how Christmas is being ruined by enclosure, merchant capitalism, and people from Massachusetts.
December 2nd First article appears in Mercurius Bigoticus about Christmas being cancelled for fear of offending the Ottoman ambassador.
December 5th Sir Bob Geldoffe and his band of underemployed minstrels first come a-wassailing, conveniently never staying in any parish long enough to pay the poor rate.
December 13th Ye X Factor Fynal. Now they’ve impressed a panel comprising a sleazy theatre-owner, a talentless dancer, an Irish people-trafficker, and former prostitute Nell G, find out which act will triumph in the public vote of 40 shilling freeholders.
December 16th Ye Apprentice Fynal. Having left a trail of destruction and incompetence around the City of London, which bragging adolescent will win a lucrative 7-year binding contract under a cruel and violent master? (in the event of a female winner, they will be put into domestic service for a year)
December 20th Village Christmas Party. Whigs and Tories alike come together for a feast of overcooked calf, soggy potatoes, and Mad Agnes’s Magic Vegetable Fart-Balls. They then drink themselves silly, and laugh mirthfully as the Lord of the Manor gets off with one of his servants and as Joseph the butcher’s lad passes out on a dunghill.
* * *
Compleat Christmas Day Revels:
Ye Great Escape. Heartwarming story in which a group of English soldiers escape from a Spanish prison only to be captured, tortured and shot by the Inquisition. The perfect accompaniment to your afternoon Christmas claret.
It’s a Wonder-full Lyfe. Heartwarming story in which a failed peddlar decides against suicide because suicide is a sin, a felony, and will result in all his goods being confiscated by the Crown.
Downeton Abbey. Extremely effective royalist propaganda designed to make you love the aristocracy even as they enclose your lands, pull down your farm, and have you hanged for looking at them funny.
Christmas Call the Plague-Doctor. Jenny vists a man with a fever in Eyam, Derbyshire. Will it be the Plague… or just plain old typhus?
Love Contractually. Delightful Christmas romantic comedy in which an all-star cast sue each other for abandonment in the Diocesan Courts.
Dye Harde. Thrilling play in which action-man Titus Oates thwarts some Catholics who have taken over the Tower of London and are threatening to start a big fire.
A Christmastide Carol. Miserly goldsmith-banker Ebenezer Scrooge claims he’s been visited by a series of ghosts, and is thus shunned by neighbours who think he must be a Catholic.
The King His Speech. Our gracious majesty Charles II tells us about some of his favourite actresses.
Ye Channel Four Alternative King His Speech. This year, in a move that’s enraged Mercurius Bigoticus, the Alternative Speech will be given from a secret location by exiled regicide Edmund Ludlow.
(Can’t afford to attend these revels? Fear ye not. Come to your local alehouse where Village Idiot Richard Bacon will be counting down the 100 Most Embarrassing Military Blunders of the Year while John the Bishop makes banal observations containing the word ‘shite’.)
Boxing Day. Day of relaxation spent returning unwanted clothes to the East India Company.
Late December Ye Royall Society Christmas Lectures. In this year’s family-friendly oration, celebrity academic Sir Isaac Newton will explain ‘gravity’ using things he’s found in the garden. In Latin without subtitles.
31st December Ye Eve of Ye New Year. Although the actual NYE isn’t until 24 March (you Gregorian papist traitor), those who wish to can honour the eve of the Feast of the Circumcision of the Christ by, naturally, getting half cut.
Twelfth Night. Back to the farm, you lazy peasant.