Christmas in Germany

A Cultural History

By Joe Perry

416 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 37 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2213-2
    Published: December 2014
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-9941-0
    Published: September 2010
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-8317-9
    Published: September 2010

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For poets, priests, and politicians--and especially ordinary Germans--in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the image of the loving nuclear family gathered around the Christmas tree symbolized the unity of the nation at large. German Christmas was supposedly organic, a product of the winter solstice rituals of pagan "Teutonic" tribes, the celebration of the birth of Jesus, and the age-old customs that defined German character. Yet, as Joe Perry argues, Germans also used these annual celebrations to contest the deepest values that held the German community together: faith, family, and love, certainly, but also civic responsibility, material prosperity, and national belonging.

This richly illustrated volume explores the invention, evolution, and politicization of Germany's favorite national holiday. According to Perry, Christmas played a crucial role in public politics, as revealed in the militarization of "War Christmas" during World War I and World War II, the Nazification of Christmas by the Third Reich, and the political manipulation of Christmas during the Cold War. Perry offers a close analysis of the impact of consumer culture on popular celebration and the conflicts created as religious, commercial, and political authorities sought to control the holiday's meaning. By unpacking the intimate links between domestic celebration, popular piety, consumer desires, and political ideology, Perry concludes that family festivity was central in the making and remaking of public national identities.

About the Author

Joe Perry is associate professor of modern German and European history at Georgia State University.
For more information about Joe Perry, visit the Author Page.


"Rich with illustrations and the use of German primary sources, this book will be loved by German history buffs and broader cultural historians--a welcome addition to academic collections. Extensive notes and a lengthy biography will aid any researcher in this subject area."--Library Journal

"Excellent cultural history. . . . There is much to enthral, surprise and shock in this meticulously researched work, which reveals both the genuine beauty and darker shadows cast by the Tannenbaum and the somber echoes contained within sweet renditions of 'Silent Night.'"--Times Literary Supplement

"This richly illustrated volume explores the invention, evolution, and politicization of Germany's favorite national holiday. . . ."--Lone Star Book Review

“Written in a rich yet clear and comprehensible language, splendidly illustrated with materials from the corresponding eras, it is delightful reading for professional historians, students, and non-academic enthusiasts of history alike.”--Journal of NC Association of Historians

“This book will be of immediate interest to German scholars. As an example of an unusually insightful, inventive, and rigorous cultural history, it deserves a wider audience. Compellingly written, jargon-free, and thoroughly researched . . . Christmas in Germany is a fascinating contribution to modern German and contemporary cultural history.”--American Historical Review

“A fine study, well researched, well organized, easy to follow, and thorough. . . . It belongs in the university or seminary library and definitely on the shelves of those doing research on Christmas, on religious holidays, and on nineteenth- and twentieth-century German Christianity.”--Church History