Patriotic Christmas Decorations
Little Christmas Show
21 November 2020 - 14 February 2021
This year’s small special show will focus on Christmas tree decorations that were made for the time of the two world wars. Christmas in wartime had a special meaning. Most family fathers and sons were at the front. Christmas trees were sent to the front in matchboxes and at home, the Christian message of peace was radically reinterpreted.
During the First World War, the Christmas tree carried national symbols. It became a national affair, which was to evoke patriotic feelings. Images of the emperor and iron crosses made of Dresden cardboard, glass submarines, mines and bombs with painted imperial eagles, as well as black, white and red banderoles were the new secular tree decoration. The top of the tree was often decorated with a structure in the shape of a Prussian spiked helmet.
During the Second World War, the National Socialist leadership appropriated Christmas for war propaganda. In numerous publications, the Third Reich tried to bring the Germanic roots of Christmas into the consciousness of the Germans and called on old Germanic virtues for the new content of the festival. The new rulers took great pains to use this emotionally most important family celebration of the year for propaganda purposes. Every opportunity was taken to reinterpret Christian customs and contents into Germanic origin and content. Christmas decorations, which corresponded to the ideas of the top leadership, were also available for purchase. Glass pressed spheres, containing strongly relieved, old Germanic symbols. These included the tree of life, sun wheel, runes, and swastika. However, it is important to stress that such pieces are rarely found in contemporary photographs. Many families seem to have given priority to the notion of peace.
Patriotic Christmas decorations in the national colours of blue-white-red are still extremely popular today in the US. But this has no ideological meaning. It is just a way of showing that you are proud of your country.
This difficult chapter in the history of Christmas tree decorations should not be ignored. We have succeeded in showing this somewhat different Christmas season thanks to items on loan from the private collection of Mr. Dünnenberger and the Library at Guisanplatz BiG. The exhibition will be shown in this form only in Basel.