Once upon a time there was a kingdom so orderly that its laws and institutions had all sorts of branchings and variations, like a healthy, growing tree.

One of those odd little variations was the Christmas King.

Every year, the spirit of Christmas touched someone with so much merriment that by common acclaim they were recognized as the Christmas King.  And for all the days of Christmas, they were the king in fact.  No orders but theirs were given–they had real royal authority, the ordinary monarch got to step down for a while, and the royal servants and the royal guards served the Christmas King.  The Christmas King led the nation in jollity and joy.  Then, when the season was over, their monarchy ended, and the every day king once again put on his crown.

It happened that the every day king died without a son or a near relative.   By the laws of the kingdom, it was not clear which of two improbable and remote heirs should inherit.  Some said one, and some said another.  There was no way to solve the impasse that could be found, so the nation limped along, obscure laws being used to fill the lesser offices, guards continuing at their prior posts, servants sweeping and resweeping an empty palace every day.

When the citizens flooded the streets at the start of the Christmas season, a certain small feed merchant shouted Noel with such enthusiasm and Wassail with such heartiness that all agreed that he was the Christmas King.  To be near him was to have one’s spirits lifted.  And indeed, those who knew him well saws that he had been transformed.  He was the same man, but not the same man.  He had been transposed to a higher, merrier, more shining key.

And so he was dressed in the bright robes of state and the palace servants happily bustled about to make the great dinners that he ordered, open to all, and the guards cheerfully posted themselves in front of his door to chaff with the onlookers who always gathered about.    He went about giving out money from the unspent surplus of the royal treasure and his laugh was heard in every corner of the town and country.  He gave orders by royal decree: “Feast.  Be merry.  Delight in the Son of God.”

One clear winter day, two young men came to the Christmas King.  Everything was happy now, they said, while he reigned.  But when the twelve days of Christmas ended, what then?  The kingdom would be kingless again.  He now had royal authority.  He could decree which of the two candidates for everyday rule would take up the monarchy.  They knew one of the candidates to be highly qualified for rule.  He could meet with the candidate and verify his fitness his office.  Would he not, they asked, give orders to resolve the impasse?

The Christmas King slapped them on the back and called them good fellows.   And he gave them orders.  “Feast.  Be merry.  Delight in the Son of God.”


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