The relation of Christmas, Santa Claus, Saint Nick and Fascism was ambiguous; as unsettling as Santa squeezing down the chimney and spreading soot on the wall to wall carpeting. Nazi Germany celebrated Christmas without Christ with the help of swastika tree baubles, ‘Germanic’ cookies and a host of manufactured traditions, that seem alien, though not unknown, with respect to the mainstream Western tradition. The way the celebration was gradually taken over and exploited for propaganda purposes by Hitler’s Nazis is undeniable, though through the manipulation of the appropriation, the orthodox claim of atheism, though imbued with pagan winter solstice tradition; is hardly extinguished. The aesthetic, as we know it was certainly not the same, and the spirit of Christmas was for the most part….limited. All the gifts were political, and all were exploitable and disposable toys setting in motion the right wing gift of inexhaustible refugees and claims for national identity…
“Or maybe he’s a fascist? That, at least, is what a report in the Thursday issue of the tabloid Bild seems to indicate. Germans shopping for Christmas trinkets have been shocked recently to discover row upon row of Santa Clauses looking to all the world as if they are giving the Hitler salute — right arm, straight as an arrow, raised skyward. Never mind that St. Nick is carrying a bag of toys and wearing a silly red hat complete with a white pom-pom. Shoppers were sure — these Santas were Nazis.”
‘Christmas was a provocation for the Nazis – after all, the baby Jesus was a Jewish child,’ Judith Breuer told the German newspaper Spiegel. ‘The most important celebration in the year didn’t fit with their racist beliefs so they had to react, by trying to make it less Christian.’ The Nazis attempted to persuade housewives to bake cookies in the shape of swastikas, and they replaced the Christian figure of Saint Nicholas, who traditionally brings German children treats on December 6, with the Norse god Odin. The symbol that posed a particular problem for the Nazis was the star, which traditionally decorates Christmas trees.
Nazi ideologists claimed that the Christian elements of the holiday had been superimposed upon ancient Germanic traditions. 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’, 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.
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. 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”. Either it was a six-pointed star, which was a symbol of the Jews, or it was a five-pointed star, which represented the Soviets.
In the 1930s, the Nazis tried to change the ideology of Christmas. But when World War II started, the focus became more practical.Civilians were ordered to send Christmas cards to the soldiers at the front. There were also tips on how to make Christmas cookies in the face of food shortages.