Monday, December 25, 2017

Why Germans are so good at Christmas

Why Germans are so good at Christmas

‘Tis the season when it becomes obvious yet again: Germans just do Christmas better. If Christmas were a team sport, the Germans would be the tinsel-covered, carol-singing, fairy-light-swinging champions of the world. And that is not a new observation. As one British travel writer pointed out in 1911: “There is no country in the world where Christmas is so intensely ‘Christmassy’ as in the Fatherland.”

A British expat living in Berlin today agrees: “Christmas in Germany is as Christmas in the UK used to be, 40 years ago. Back home, everything is based on Christmas day. The only rituals around it involve shopping before and after.”
In Germany, by contrast, shopping is secondary, and the festive spirit stretches over a whole month, and sometimes longer. Feeling cosy indoors; drinking hot, spiced alcohol; enjoying colorful lights on a gloomy afternoon – the German Weihnachten is about all that and more.
The Nazis attacked those they saw as enemies – Jews, Communists and Socialists – for violating the sanctity of Christmas.
A lot of the world’s contemporary Christmas traditions were invented in Germany. The Christmas tree is probably the country’s most successful seasonal export. Germans also made the first glass Christmas-tree baubles and the first tinsel. Many of the most popular Christmas carols have German roots. Even Santa Claus has German ancestry. He was first popularized in drawings by an American political cartoonist, Thomas Nast, between 1863 and 1886 in Harper’s Weekly. Nast, however, was a German immigrant and his drawings of Santa, inspired by his European childhood, combined two figures from the German fest: Saint Nicholas in his bishop’s robes and the woolly-bearded pagan god Odin, as he rides through the night on a wild mid-winter hunt.

“The German version of the holiday fused pagan and Christian beliefs and had ‘deep roots in primordial German soil’,” writes Joseph Perry, a professor of modern German history at Georgia State University and author of “Christmas in Germany: A Cultural History.” These national idiosyncrasies in the German style of celebrating became important in the 19th century, with the rise of romanticism and nationalism. “Germany’s late unification in 1871 created an urgent need for some sort of celebration that might appeal to broad yet diverse groups,” Mr Perry told Handelsblatt Global. Christmas was that celebration. That’s how it became “the most German of German holidays.”
That is also why Christmas was useful to the Nazis in the 20th century. They “could build on the scholarly literature that cast Christmas as particularly German,” Mr. Perry explains. They also attacked those they saw as enemies – Jews, Communists and Socialists – for violating the sanctity of Christmas. The Nazis placed great emphasis on a truly “authentic” celebration.

Sociologically speaking, Christmas is infectious. “The lights and candles in winter have an obvious appeal. And people orient themselves toward other people,” explains Christian Stegbauer, a sociology professor at the University of Frankfurt, who has previously studied patterns in local gift giving. “That’s how culture develops. So if your neighbour puts up Christmas lights, you may do so too. Every family has their own rituals and over generations, they stabilize. Then, because of the many small rules around the rituals, and the fact that so many people are involved, it becomes hard to change them.”

Germany’s festive styles today vary between regions, and between Catholics and Protestants. Nonetheless most Germans start celebrating what used to be Yuletide from the beginning of December, or even earlier if you count November’s “lantern festival” as a prelude. Each Sunday in December, they light an additional candle on a decorative wreath. They receive visits from Saint Nicholas in early December, and from the dreaded Krampus, a demonic figure who keeps track of whether children have been naughty or nice. Many Germans go to dedicated church services, bake cookies and cakes and visit Christmas markets.

“As a parent, I would say Christmas here is so big because there are so many little rituals and they’re all jammed into one month,” says a New York native, who has lived in Germany for over a decade and has three children. “When you have kids, you just go from one Christmas event to another. In the US, some people might do some of the things – but here everybody does everything. You can’t escape it.”

Despite religious overtones, the inadvertent focus of most of these German rituals is community and family, not consumerism. It’s also about a “German version of public sociability and a culture of politeness,” says Mr. Perry, of a sort that Americans, in his opinion, do not share.
“Christmas is bound up with the feeling that ‘we’ have always celebrated Christmas this way,” writes Daniel Miller, a British anthropologist, in his German-language book, “Christmas: The Global Celebration.” Germans are convinced that they should celebrate the way they did when they were children. So once a year, all of Germany turns into a nostalgic fairy tale.

And yet, this wouldn’t be Germany without regular soul-searching essays in the German media about whether all these small, family-focused rituals have become inherently meaningless. But meaning is in the eye of the beholder. And this week, as every year, millions of beholders, German and foreign alike, in the middle of Europe, are in search of that elusive nostalgic joy. They know that Germany – more than any manger in Bethlehem – is the true home of the modern Christmas.

Cathrin Schaer is an editor at Handelsblatt Global.

Winter scenes

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Seeing it is believing it-Trumpy Bear

We have come to the end of civilization as we know it.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Recommended book

Recommended book

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century Paperback – February 28, 2017

by Timothy Snyder (Author)

Why This Historian Says a Trump Coup Is ‘Pretty Much Inevitable’


 Clink on the link 

True Americans

And now, an original American story. North America and true Americans.

Happy holidays to one and all

A Politically Correct Christmas Poem by Harvey Ehrlich
'Twas the night before Christmas and Santa's a wreck ...
How to live in a world that's politically correct?
His workers no longer would answer to "Elves",
"Vertically Challenged" they were calling themselves.
And labor conditions at the north pole
Were alleged by the union to stifle the soul.

Four reindeer had vanished, without much propriety,
Released to the wilds by the Humane Society.
And equal employment had made it quite clear
That Santa had better not use just reindeer.
So Dancer and Donner, Comet and Cupid,
Were replaced with 4 pigs, and you know that looked stupid!

The runners had been removed from his sleigh;
The ruts were termed dangerous by the E.P.A.
And people had started to call for the cops
When they heard sled noises on their roof-tops.
Second-hand smoke from his pipe had his workers quite frightened.
His fur trimmed red suit was called "Unenlightened."

And to show you the strangeness of life's ebbs and flows,
Rudolf was suing over unauthorized use of his nose
And had gone on Geraldo, in front of the nation,
Demanding millions in over-due compensation.

So, half of the reindeer were gone; and his wife,
Who suddenly said she'd enough of this life,
Joined a self-help group, packed, and left in a whiz,
Demanding from now on her title was Ms.

And as for the gifts, why, he'd ne'er had a notion
That making a choice could cause so much commotion.
Nothing of leather, nothing of fur,
Which meant nothing for him. And nothing for her.
Nothing that might be construed to pollute.
Nothing to aim. Nothing to shoot.
Nothing that clamored or made lots of noise.
Nothing for just girls. Or just for the boys.
Nothing that claimed to be gender specific.
Nothing that's warlike or non-pacific.

No candy or sweets...they were bad for the tooth.
Nothing that seemed to embellish a truth.
And fairy tales, while not yet forbidden,
Were like Ken and Barbie, better off hidden.
For they raised the hackles of those psychological
Who claimed the only good gift was one ecological.

No baseball, no football...someone could get hurt;
Besides, playing sports exposed kids to dirt.
Dolls were said to be sexist, and should be passe;
And Nintendo would rot your entire brain away.

So Santa just stood there, disheveled, perplexed;
He just could not figure out what to do next.
He tried to be merry, tried to be gay,
But you've got to be careful with that word today.
His sack was quite empty, limp to the ground;
Nothing fully acceptable was to be found.

Something special was needed, a gift that he might
Give to all without angering the left or the right.
A gift that would satisfy, with no indecision,
Each group of people, every religion;
Every ethnicity, every hue,
Everyone, everywhere...even you.
So here is that gift, it's price beyond worth...
"May you and your loved ones enjoy peace on earth."

(c) Harvey Ehrlich, 1992. Notice: This poem is copyright 1992 by Harvey Ehrlich (

My friends and I would like to wish everyone a happy holiday and a happy and healthy new year.