So imagine Rulers of the Sea launches in December 2022 (now that would be a great Christmas gift!), just in time for Christmas! Would we celebrate Christmas in the game?
Just imagine, in the week of Christmas pine trees with glowing candles and colourful trinkets replace the statues on the market squares of the ports, garlands hang on all the doors, it’s all-around merry. People are drinking, singing, some wear a kind of historic Santa suit, sleigh bells are ringing, reindeer are flying, or maybe, rather, turning on the spit. Wouldn’t that be great?
Yeah, that would be great, but if you expect that you’ll be disappointed. Because the way we celebrate Christmas today is a very modern phenomena.
Let’s just say today we’ve got a mix of traditions
dating back to the middle ages, from Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, Wodan, Christchild, Sinterklaas, and all it took was a bit of 19th century
magical sprinkling of imaginative writers and some dousing in early 20th
century commercial Christmas spirit to create the merry round-bellied
white-bearded gift-giving Santa and his elves and reindeers.
No-one had ever heard of Santa Claus in 1750, the name first appeared in print in 1773 and depicted a fat Dutch sailor with a green coat and a pipe, a mockery of Dutch culture in New York.
But it is not the appearance of a fat Dutchman that would shock any Christian ancestors in 1750, it would be the very spirit of it! The Calvinist Puritans and Protestants (the ancestors of the inventors of Santa Claus one might say) banned Christmas all together in the 17th century. It was associated with drunkenness and immoral behaviour. In England it was restored again in 1660 as a legal but disreputable holiday, but on American soil observance of ‘any such day as Christmas or the like’ either by celebrating or taking a free day became punishable with a fine of 5 Shillings. Reading of the Book of Common Prayer, the making of mince pies, the playing of cards or performing on any musical instruments was all prohibited until early into the 19th
century in most of New England.
The lack of Christmas spirit in New England does not mean it was not celebrated elsewhere in the world. Other regions of the 13 Colonies were a little less Puritan, England had restored the holiday and on mainland Europe traditions differed greatly. But it was certainly nothing like today and existed of very localized traditions. It were really writers like Charles Dickens that revived the holiday by “changing consciousness of Christmas and the way in which it was celebrated”.
So in Rulers of the Sea, if you happen to be in one of the regions of the world where Christmas might have been observed, the possibly most appropriate historical way to celebrate it would be to go to the Tavern with your friends, perhaps wearing a silly hat, and eating until you burst while getting stupefyingly drunk.
Perhaps. But we should not forget that Rulers of the Sea is about re-writing history, so the Christmas spirit can be restored earlier than it was. We should also not forget that this strangest of holidays was certainly not commonplace around the world. It was a quaint European tradition that many foreigners would have looked upon as very curious indeed.
Be that as it may, if any of you are in the modern Christmas spirit we wish you a merry Christmas. And for those that do not celebrate it, we wish you very merry days too, because there should be no laws against merriment! We hope you are all well and you are certainly always welcome in this community.