Elizabeth Hunter provides a reminder that Christmas was once less familial, more political :

At the time the poem was written, disturbance on the lawn on Christmas Eve would have been not magical, but threatening, likely caused by drunken youths roaming the neighborhood, demanding gifts from respectable householders.

This was an echo of older traditions, also subversive, which saw tenants and serfs demanding gifts and being given law-like powers in this “season of misrule.”

Some regiments of the British Army still maintain the practice of officers serving men in the mess on Christmas Day. Stephen Nissenbaum’s book “The Battle for Christmas” tells the story of this transformation of Christmas from an “unruly carnival season” to the quintessential, apolitical family holiday.

Christmas then, before being domesticated by the Victorians, was a profoundly political time.

Steve Holmes, a theologian at the University of St Andrews, argues that this political edge is entirely congruent with the biblical stories of the nativity.

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