File:Bundesarchiv Bild 102-17313, Berlin, Weihnachtspakete für das Winterhilfswerk.jpg

The Christian festival of Christmas was celebrated in Nazi Germany, although with variations from traditional practice. It was referred to as "Julfest".

Changes during the Nazi eraEdit

Nazi ideologists claimed that the Christian elements of the holiday had been superimposed upon ancient Germanic traditions.[1] 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',[1] 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.[1]

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.[1][2] 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".[1]

Christmas carols were also changed. The words to "Silent Night" were changed so it made no reference to God, Christ and religion.[1] 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 is still sung in modern-day Germany.[2][3] 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.[1][4] Housewives were prompted to bake biscuits, cookies and bread in the shape of birds, wheels and swastikas for their children.[5]

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-J28377, Volkssturm feiert Weihnachten.jpg

By 1944 the movement to remove Christian influences from Christmas lessened as the government concentrated more on the war effort.[1][5]

Following the fall of Nazi Germany, attempts to remove Christian influences from Christmas continued in East Germany. Communist writers attempted to replace the birth of Jesus with the birth of Joseph Stalin, claiming he was born in a small Russian hut on 21 December.[1]

See alsoEdit



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