|Infant of Prague|
The pagan ancestors of the European peoples had their part in the Christmas story as well. As we have talked about here before, the birth of Christ was said to have been prophesied to the Emperor Augustus by the Tiburtine Sybil. This, the story goes, caused Augustus Caesar to refrain from allowing the Senate to declare him a god. It was also, of course, the command of the Emperor for a census to be taken which prompted the fulfillment of the ancient prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Later, in the Christian era, when there was much debate on the subject, the date chosen on which to celebrate Christmas was that of the Winter Solstice according to the Roman calendar. This was when the pagan Romans celebrated the festival of Brumalia, in honor of the god Saturn (later becoming the Saturnalia, mostly in the East). The incorporation into the Christmas celebration of pre-Christian traditions such as the Yule log, exchanging presents and general merriment, later put off the more Puritanical Protestant sects of Christianity who considered the holiday altogether ‘too Pagan’ which is why Christmas was suppressed in Britain during the dictatorship of Oliver Cromwell, only to be restored when the monarchy was restored under King Charles II, the “Merry Monarch”.
|The coronation of Charlemagne|
In the German lands, Christmas has always been extremely important and tied to the imperial legacy due to the coronation of Charlemagne (or Karl der Grosse as he is in German) on Christmas day. In the British Isles, Christmas gained noticeable royal support during the reign of the House of Stuart. King James I ordered a play to put on for the occasion (something which used to be common in schools but is likely forbidden these days) and King Charles I would dismiss his courtiers at Christmas time in order that they might go home to preside over the traditional Christmas festivities in their locales. Suppressed by Cromwell, as stated, Christmas came back with King Charles II and King James I, at least in England (the Scots actually continued to refuse to make it a public holiday until 1959!) and it carried on after the so-called “Glorious Revolution” under King William III and Queen Mary II. The Dutch Reformed Church had always celebrated Christmas and, of course, the German Hanoverians had no problem with it either.
|Victoria & Albert around their Christmas tree|
Many of the traditions associated with Christmas in the United States only appeared in the Victorian era due to their popularity with the rest of the English-speaking world. Partly because of the lingering effects of Puritanism in New England and the pushing of egalitarianism and opposition to anything associated with royalty or aristocracy, the early United States was devoid of most of the customs modern Americans think of as being traditionally associated with Christmas. These would not start to take root in America until roughly the 1820’s, increasing with their popularity across the British Empire thanks to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. In fact, the only thing similar, previously occurring on American soil, was probably the celebrations of Hessian or other German mercenaries employed by the British during the War for Independence. We do know that the first Christmas tree in Canada was featured at a party held in 1781 by the commander of the troops from Brunswick, Germany General Friedrich Adolf Riedesel and his wife in Quebec, where they were stationed in the event of another attack by the American forces.
|Good King Wenceslas|
Taken altogether, Christmas can be considered one of, if not the, most monarchist of holidays. Just as Christ was crucified as a king, so too was His birth heralded as the birth of a king. Many of its traditions had monarchial origins and were spread by kings and princes around the world and the Christmas story set a narrative in the minds of the people that was later imposed on earthly monarchs. Today, few people, if any, give any thought to this at all. However, none of it is hidden, it simply is not a topic. If any person was to consider it for more than a moment, they would see that royal symbolism permeates Christmas at virtually every level. For myself, this Christmas will be a difficult one but I hope every adherent of traditional authority will take the time to consider the many connections discussed and, for all Christian readers certainly, will have a very happy Christmas.