HoHoHo, wishing a merry Nazi Christmas to all readers of The Dabbler and The Wikiworm! I’m looking forward to a 2014 full of questionable facts and eyebrow-raising articles from the deepest depths of Wikipedia. 2013 has been a blast, see you in the new year.
The celebration of Christmas in Nazi Germany was another part of daily life that was brought in line with Nazi ideology. The Jewish origins of Jesus and the commemoration of his birth as the Jewish Messiah was considered troubling within the framework of Nazi racial beliefs. Between 1933 and 1945, government officials attempted to remove overtly jewish aspects of christmas from civil celebrations and concentrate on the pre-christian parts of the festival. Hymns and decorations were secularised. However church and private celebrations remained Christian in nature.
Christianity had long been the main faith of the Germanic peoples, dating to the missionary work of Columbanus and St. Boniface in the 6th–8th centuries. Between 1933-1945, proponents of Nazism sought to transform the subjective consciousness of the German people—their attitudes, values and mentalities—into a single-minded, obedient “national community”.
After taking power in 1933, Nazi ideologues initially renamed the christmas festival Julfest, and propagated its Germanic origins as the celebration of the winter solstice. These ideologists also claimed that the Christian elements of th
e holiday had been superimposed upon ancient Germanic traditions. They argued that Christmas Eve originally had nothing to do with the birth of Jesus Christ, but instead celebrated the winter solstice and the ‘rebirth of the sun’, that the swastika was an ancient symbol of the sun, and that Santa Claus was a Christian reinvention of the Germanic god Odin. Accordingly, holiday posters were made to depict Odin as the “Christmas or Solstice man”, riding a white charger, sporting a thick grey beard and wearing a slouch hat, carrying a sack full of gifts. Other changes were made to the manger, which was replaced by a Christmas garden containing wooden toy deer and rabbits; Mary and Jesus were also depicted as a blonde mother and child.
The Christmas tree was also changed. The traditional names of the tree, Christbaum or Weihnachtsbaum, was renamed in the press as fir tree, light tree or Jul tree. The star on the top of the tree was sometimes replaced with a swastika, a Germanic “sun wheel” or a Sig rune. During the height of the movement, an attempt was made to remove the association of the coming of Jesus and replace it with the coming of Adolf Hitler, referred to as the “Saviour Führer”.
Christmas carols were also updated. The words to “Silent Night” were amended so that it made no reference to God, Christ and religion. Words were also changed to the hymn “Unto Us a Time Has Come” so as to remove references to Jesus. The modified version of the hymn was in use for several more years in post-war Germany.
Shop catalogues containing children’s toys made available during the holiday season regularly featured toy tanks, fighter planes and machine guns. As a sign of appreciation, Heinrich Himmler frequently gave SS members a Julleuchter (“Yule lantern”), a kind of ornate Germanic candlestick, some of which were made at Dachau concentration camp. Housewives were prompted to bake biscuits in the shape of birds, wheels and swastikas for their children.
By 1944 the movement to remove Christian influences from Christmas lessened as the government concentrated more on the war effort. In 1944 civil celebrations of christmas marked the festival as a day of remembrance for Germany’s war dead. However, for the majority of Germans, the Christian traditions remained the basis of the holiday, and the churches were outraged by the removal of Christ from Christmas and tacitly maintained their Christian traditions in their ceremonies.