Last Yuletide News Bits

Re-purposed Santa figure, Pueblo, Colorado

• This is your brain. This is your brain on Christmas.

• “How the Lawyers Stole Winter”  — are we raising kids who can’t cope? No, it’s not Yule-related, directly. Indirectly, yes, I would argue. You have to embrace all of the wheel.

• No matter how “imagistic” it may be, Iraqi Christians are afraid to celebrate Midnight Mass. The current bunch of Islamists may succeed after 1,400 years of effort in chasing the last Arab Christians out of the Middle East. Expect them all in North America soon. (I have already met Egyptian Christians in a tiny town near me.)

• I was watching a re-run show hosted by travel writer Burt Wolf in which he reported that Christmas trees were promoted by 16th-century German Protestants who considered images of the Virgin Mary, Jesus, and the saints to be idolatrous and who wanted to replace them with something else. That is counter-intuitive enough that it might be right, and it matches what was going on elsewhere, such as England in the time of the boy king Edward VI. In that case, the Christmas tree does not qualify as a “Pagan survival,” at least not directly.

• And don’t forget Krampus coming to town.

3 thoughts on “Last Yuletide News Bits

  1. Christmas trees; In origin, I think they’re probably a pagan “introduction” rather than “survival”, probably having been introduced from the still-pagan Baltic area into northern Germany in late mediaeval times.

    However, the thing about them being seen as Protestant is not all that controversial. For a long time, their use in Germany was restricted to Protestant areas, and Catholics strongly disapproved. Even now, a lot of Continental Catholics, especially in the Latin countries, are strongly against.

    I think their popularity in England, starting in Victorian times, was self-consciously semi-pagan. Germany was very popular in England from the 17th century to about 1910, and it was linked to the Anglo-Saxon roots thing (eg. popularity of Anglo-Saxon names), which was pagan-tinged.

  2. Most histories of the Christmas tree in England attribute their popularity in Britain to German-born Prince Albert, since the Royal Family, back then, could set styles in domestic living. North Americans, in turn, picked up the trend, although the large number of German immigrants in the US, at least, might have given it extra impetus.

    We are left with a more metaphysical argument, then, that the prince consort’s tree might have triggered some sort of psychological Pagan impulse, if you want to go there.

  3. Prince Albert was German, and popularised the tree (although it was known earlier), but Victoria herself was the last Hanoverian – a German dynasty. Germany became popular in England as the home of the Reformation. Then in the Commonwealth era there was an interest in Anglo-Saxon things – the radical Ranters, Diggers, etc., talked about casting off the Norman Yoke – and this was linked to a liking for all things German. Then, after 1714, with the Hanoverians being from Saxony, their usurpation was spun in terms of their being the first Saxon monarchs since 1066. Look at at the way people started using Anglo-Saxon given names again after about 1800, when, apart from Edward and Edmund, they had been virtually forgotten. It was a psychological wrench for many people, just before WW1, to start seeing Germans as enemies.

    This sort of thing was all linked in with 19th-century literary nascent paganism. I suppose there is a metaphysical line to take, but I was thinking more in terms of something in the air culturally – vague, yes, but not as mystical.

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