Weird History

What Was Christmas Like In Nazi Germany? 

Genevieve Carlton
Updated March 11, 2019 10.9k views 11 items

Nazi Christmas wasn't a warm and fuzzy holiday – it was a celebration of Aryan superiority and Nazi dominance, wrapped up in the likeness of Christmas. There are a number of mysteries still surrounding the Nazis, but the mystery of Nazi Christmas has been solved: it was all about promoting Hitler and the Nazi Party.

Nazi Christmas ornaments featured swastikas, and they tried to replace Santa with Odin. The Nazis also tried to rename Christmas “Julfest,” or Yuletide, to avoid references to Christianity. Nazi Julfest promoted soldiers, German blood, and “community fires.” They even changed the words of "Silent Night" to praise Hitler.

Christmas in Nazi Germany was a propaganda opportunity, where holiday cheer could serve a nationalist agenda. Nazis in the United States might have even celebrated in the same style. By twisting Christmas to replace Jesus with Hitler and Nazi symbols, the Nazis corrupted the holiday for their own evil purposes.

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They Kept The Tree – But Found New Ornaments
They Kept The Tree –&nbs... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list What Was Christmas Like In Nazi Germany?
Photo: Geolina163/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

The Christmas tree remained a central part of celebrations, with a few modifications. Instead of a star at the top of the tree, revelers promoted a a Germanic “sun wheel.” Lighting candles on the tree symbolized the “return of the sun” after the solstice, the shortest day of the year. 

Trees were ornamented with tiny sun wheels and additional symbols to keep things festive. 

The New Christmas Was All About “Blood and Soil”
The New Christmas Was Al... is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list What Was Christmas Like In Nazi Germany?
Photo:  Hugo Jaeger/Contributor/The LIFE Picture Collection

Those who celebrated the "new" version of Christmas never skipped an opportunity to promote their agenda make it clear that non-Germanic people were not welcome in the country. And Christmas was no exception. 

Wilhelm Beilstein’s 1939 article on Christmas concluded with a call to the power of German blood:

“When we celebrate a German Christmas, we include in the circle of the family all those who are of German blood, and who affirm their German ethnicity, all those who came before us and who will come after us, all those whom fate did not allow to live within the borders of our Reich, or who are doing their duty in foreign lands amidst foreign peoples.”

The Words To "Silent Night" Were Changed To Make Hitler The Hero
The Words To "Silen... is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list What Was Christmas Like In Nazi Germany?
Photo: Metaweb/GNU Free Documentation License

In the quest to rid Christmas of mentions of Christ,  those in power changed the words to a number of popular Christmas songs, including "Silent Night."

In the new version, German Chancellor Hitler is the hero of the song. “Silent night, Holy night/ All is calm, all is bright./ Only the Chancellor stays on guard,/ Germany’s future to watch and to ward,/ Guiding our nation aright.”

It's not as catchy as the original.

Santa Apparently Brought Terrible Presents
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Photo: BArchBot/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

This photograph from Christmas 1940 shows a girl in pajamas finding a present from Santa. Cheerfully captioned Der Nikolaus ist da! (Santa is here!), the gift appears to be a tiny manger set on top of the girl's slippers. In the "new" versions of  mangers, Mary and Jesus were blonde, and the animals were friendly German deer and rabbits instead of camels. 

Of course, a 1939 educational magazine article written by Wilhelm Beilstein pointed out that at Christmas, "presents are exchanged. [However, that] is not the most important part of the holiday."