Detail from  a painting of Samuel Pepys by John Hayls

The festive season is fast approaching and London Walks have some exciting tours planned for the next month, and even on Christmas Day itself.

Christmas Morning, 1660 - Samuel Pepys' London explores what happened when celebrations of Christmas were banned for almost a decade in England. The tour begins, fittingly, at the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square.

Yes, you heard right. From around 1652 until 1660, the joyful festivities of Christmas were banned. During this time, Oliver Cromwell was in charge and he believed, along with a large number of other Puritan Christians, that the celebrations of Christ’s birth had strayed too far from the day's true meaning. They saw indulgent activities like elaborate decorations, feasting, dancing, singing, drinking and buying presents as decadent and not in line with the core of the Christian faith.

So, in 1644 an Act of Parliament banned these activities on the 25th. Even attending Mass with your family was forbidden, and shops were to open as they would on any other day.

In spite of this, many people in London and across the country still made merry in secret. But enforcement remained strict, as soldiers patrolled the streets of the capital, seizing any food that they believed would be eaten to observe the holiday. 

This so-called "war" on Yuletide lasted until 1660, and London Walks has created a tour that explores what it might have been like on that bitter non-Christmas morning.

The walk is based on the intriguing and fascinating diaries of Samuel Pepys, who began writing the same year. He kept this diary for a decade and now his scribblings are some of the most important sources when looking at the English Restoration period.

Along with Christmas 1660, the later administrator of the navy of England and Member of Parliament managed to document some of the most famous events in English history, including the Great Fire of London in 1666, the Second Dutch War, and the Great Plague that ravaged the country from 1664 until 1666.

“Pepys’ Diary is the most entertaining and joyful autobiographical record ever kept, says Mary Tucker, Co-Founder of London Walks. "Thanks to the quality of his writing, the little anecdotes, illuminating profiles and Pepys’ warm personality, we’re able to catch a glimpse of what life would have been like in London all those centuries ago."

You can see for yourself by turning up and meeting one of the talented London Walks guides at the tree in Trafalgar Square at 11am on Christmas morning. Each walk lasts two hours and costs £10 per adult. To find out more, please visit the London Walks website.

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