One of the traditions in medieval times was to appoint a Lord of Misrule for the length of the celebrations between Christmas Day and the 6th of January (Christ's baptism). This person was usually a peasant or servant, certainly one of the lower class who became the 'King of the Castle' or other highest position within that establishment. The Lord of Misrule presided over the festivities, games and general merriment during the 12 days of Christmas, he was given command over all persons for the period and oft wore a mock crown made of twigs or cloth. It is believed that the paper crown we find in our Xmas crackers today are representative of the Lord of Misrule's mock crown.
In the abbeys, they had the Feast of Fools starting on the 1st Jan where the priests would feast and imbibe and generally abandon all their Christian morals. A young boy or servant would be made pope or bishop for the duration and the lewd activities were at times extreme, such as eating on the altar and desecrating everything holy.
Some traditions were less pleasant in medieval times. Childermass on the 28th December was kept in remembrance of the day King Herod ordered all boys younger than 2 to be slain as he sought to kill Baby Jesus. In Europe, towns oft appointed a boy bishop for this day to be in charge of all in the city. The kids in England fared less well, it is said that many parents there would beat their children on this day as a reminder to all of King Herod's cruelty. Hmm...
Did you know that Christmas was once abolished in England? Imagine! During the puritan reign in England, Cromwell actually abolished Christmas. Didn't last long though, there are some things that just shouldn't be messed with.
Happy holidays to everyone