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How Christmas was celebrated in Germany more than 100 years ago – and today

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You know that celebrating Christmas is nothing new or unique to America.

When our forefathers and mothers came to this continent to begin a new life, it did not mean that they would leave behind them all of the things that had made up their life before coming to the New World.

Photo from Frank Schmidt’s “The first illuminated Christmas tree in the New World.

And it did not mean that those who remained for generations in the old countries changed their way of living after so many left their country.

America has long been called the “melting pot” since so many folks from all over the world make up this country. They brought with them their ethnicity, their religions, and their customs. They also brought with them the way they celebrate Christmas.

This is the third in a series of little stories that was printed in a little booklet more than one hundred years ago. The two previous stories printed were about Denmark and England. And today, it is about Germany.

Most everyone knows about that wonderful Christmas Eve during World War I in 1914, when the Germans and the opposing forces put aside their differences in order to celebrate Christmas; coming up from their trenches and laying aside their weapons to celebrate Christmas.

Christmas has such an effect on people it is hard to grasp. We know the story of how Dickens’s character Scrooge was transformed at Christmas; and today our television programming is ripe with so many Christmas stories of love, romance, changed lives, and the real meaning of Christmas.

When we say the “real meaning” of Christmas we most often are referring to the birth of the Christ child who was born on some cold winter’s night in a foreign land. It matters not to most people what the actual date was – but what the event was.

It was the coming of God to earth as a child – to walk the earth – and to make Himself known to mankind. But it is even more as God pronounced the blessing of “Peace on Earth!” Christmas time is so special that people lay aside work, worries, and woes and for at least one day out of the year – enter into a kind of euphoria – a feeling of love and well being and even for a short while –“Peace on Earth. “ and “Good will toward men” just like those enemy soldiers did so long ago.

Christmas celebrations have roots stemming out from many directions and these have changed in so many ways; but one thing has been constant.

This is the time when God made an appearance on earth in the body of a simple Jewish child. His purpose was to come to earth and experience life here as did His people. He lived a short life through Jesus (but a purpose filled sinless life), a life with a mission. He fulfilled His mission through the teaching of a select few – twelve to be exact – who would later turn the world upside down.

That is the purpose of Jesus’ ministry. He turned the world upside down from sin, cruelty, and selfish motives – He turned it right side up with hope eternal - for life everlasting. That is the prayer for many in America and throughout the world that God be given His rightful honor and that the birth of Jesus will become meaningful in the hearts of everyone - and that America will be turned right-side up once again.

I found this booklet that is more than 100 years old which gives a short story of how Christmas was celebrated around the world. The first one published was about Denmark. This story tells how the house cat figured into their Christmas celebration.
The second was about England and the custom of making wassail and other treats – even with a recipe for wassail along with how the English celebrate Christmas today.

Please take the time to read from this link the introduction and forward of those stories and this one. It will help build the foundation of this series. This comes from the little booklet titled,"Christmas Around The World!" It was part of the library of John A. Walston of North Carolina.

Christmas in Germany over 100 years ago as written:

“Out of the earliest recordings of history there comes evidence of deep reverence for all natural phenomena and living things. The sun, moon, and the stars have been deified; mountains and streams have been infested with spirits. Out of the Norse Myths emerged the adoration of the Fir Tree which found eventual expression in the German “Weihnachten” or Christmas.

Many are the German contributions to this joyous season; the Christ Kind or “Kris Kringle;” toys that breathe the spirit of the bright fairlyland that lies in dark German forest and which come to life at the Christmaskt or great Christmas Fair.

But the greatest contribution of all to the Western World is the ”Tannenbaum,” decorated, embellished and festooned in utmost secrecy by Mother and which, when lighted and appropriately revealed to view on Christmas Eve is a never-failing source of enchantment and excitement. (Want more, read about the history of the fir/Christmas tree here.)

Beneath its branches are gilded nuts, multi-shaped cookies, gifts and food for every member of the household.

In some regions of the country a beautiful representation of the Lowly Stable, and the complete story of the Nativity, will be found under the tree, carved as only the native craftsmen can execute it.

This, and the gift of a little known parish priest, Father Josef Mohor, who wrote the immortal carol “Stille Nacht Heilege Nacht” can be said to be two of the German people’s great contribution to the Christian world.”

Written between 1816 and 1818, “Silent Night, Holy Night,” would be sung on Christmas Eve 1914, nearly one hundred years later on that cold and bloody battle field in more than one language – German, English, and French. That night showed the world that while languages can be different and customs can be different, we can all understand that God created us all and that Christ died for us all.”

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7

Silent night, Holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round young virgin , mother and child
Holy infant so, tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace!

Silent night, Holy night
Shepherds quake, at the sight
Glories streams from heaven above
Heavenly hosts sings Hallelujah.
Christ the savior is born,
Christ the savior is born!

Silent night, Holy night
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth!

So how do they celebrate Christmas in Germany today? Take a look here and you will see.

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