Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle a different way

Christmas tree, gift shopping, roast goose with Uncle Harald: for many, the festival of love is the same every year. Traditions are meticulously worked through and the Advent season usually means pure stress rather than relaxation. But who actually decides whether and how we should celebrate Christmas? Sure, mulled wine, cookies & Co. are great - but they are not part of it for everyone.

We spoke to people who have been celebrating Christmas very differently for many years: Lukas sometimes puts on his Christmas sweater in sunny September. Anna decided even as a child that she thought Christmas Eve alone in front of the TV was a pretty good idea. And for Laura, consumer and social criticism should not be neglected, especially during this time. Here the three tell their stories.

Lukas (27, human resources officer, Mannheim)

1. What makes your Christmas so special?

We don't celebrate like many other people on December 24th or 25th, but sometimes in autumn. For us, Christmas is something that is celebrated while all family members are still in Germany, as my grandparents have been living in Malta over the winter for about 13 years.

2. What is your fondest memory of how you celebrate Christmas?

We actually celebrated towards the end of September or the beginning of October and it was still really warm outside. At noon we were all in the garden in the sunshine and without a jacket, in the evening we went inside and we put on Christmas jumpers. And a few years ago, my grandma and grandpa came to Germany as a surprise for Christmas in December. That year there were two Grandma's Cookies, which was great, of course.

3. Why did you decide to celebrate Christmas differently than tradition dictates?

For us, Christmas is something family, a coming together, being together. It's not about the day on the calendar, nor is it religious - it's just about family.

4. How important are gifts to you at Christmas? What do you think about consumption in this context?

Of course, gifts are always an issue for us. We have already tried different variants: Secret Santas, only gifts up to a certain value or nothing at all. In fact, all the concepts didn't really work out. If we see something beautiful that someone might like, then it's also about making that person happy - regardless of whether the gift was extremely cheap or expensive. We are concerned with the personal thought and more with quality than quantity.

5. Which Christmas tradition should be eliminated ?

What I think should definitely be abolished are Christmas trees . There are now such good alternatives to felling real trees, even made from recycled plastic. This is an issue for us anyway, since we usually celebrate at a time of year when there are no real Christmas trees for sale. That's why we have an artificial variant and it always looks beautiful.

6. What do you want for Christmas this year?

What I've already received this year and will set up over the Advent season is a gingerbread house to assemble. My biggest non-material wish is that the people who couldn't celebrate with their families during the difficult lockdown last year can at least somehow do it this year.

Anna (33, PR & Communications Professional, Berlin)

"My sister is ten years older than me and when I was very little she used to collect postcards with funny sayings like the ones lying around in bars. She had a whole shoebox full of them. When I was about six or seven, I was snooping around and found a postcard that said: Singles at Christmas - alone in front of the TV. The idea completely fascinated me and turned into a wish: Imagine you don't have to go anywhere for Christmas, you don't have to eat or anything and you can just sit in front of the TV and do whatever you want. Of course that didn't work as long as I lived with my parents. But when I moved to Berlin for my final year of study, I thought to myself: now is the time, the postcard wish can become a reality! However, my parents were not as enthusiastic about it as I was - and so it was only then that we went back home. There I behaved so rebelliously in my early twenties that I was able to get the following sentence out of my mother (who still regrets it to this day): Okay, Anna, so if you really don't want to come anymore, then you don't have to either.

Nothing stood in the way of the childhood dream. Since then, for about eight years, I've been celebrating Christmas in my new home in Berlin. New traditions have emerged. At first it was eating with friends and dancing in the club, later ordering Indian food with my cats at “Kevin Alone at Home” parts 1 and 2 and then a trip to Kreuzberg to visit friends in the pub. This was not possible in 2020 - video calls replaced the other celebration program. And 2021? I do not know yet. But what I do know is that I love my own quirky Christmas tradition, inspired by that one childhood Anna mesmerizing postcard – it’s a choice I made myself and I don’t regret it.

Laura (27, cultural scientist, Freiburg)

1. What makes your Christmas so different?

For us, what is special is what is not special: For us, Christmas is neither of great importance to our family, nor are we religious. For us, it's also about being together, just without a Christmas tree, traditional food or Christmas music. For a few years now, my mother and I have been inviting friends who would otherwise be alone that day to dinner at our place.

2. What is your fondest memory of your special Christmas?

Last year my mom and I decided to spend the holidays alone. I live in southern Germany and she lives in the north, and we didn't want to endanger ourselves or others by driving back and forth. So on Christmas Eve we cooked roulades together via video call. It was so relaxed and a lot of fun - even though the circumstances were of course anything but nice.

3. Why did you decide against the Christmas norm?

When I was a child, we still celebrated relatively traditionally as a family celebration with relatives. As a teenager, I became more and more critical of the whole thing. At that time, our family situation also changed and my mother never cared about public holidays.

By the way, Pentecost or Easter are days like any other for us, there aren't even Easter greetings.

4. What is your opinion on gifts at Christmas?

Consumption is a big topic for me in general. This starts at Christmas with the wrapping paper, which often cannot be recycled. I used to smile at my father for wrapping his presents in newspaper - until I realized how awesome that actually is. I now use scarves or shawls for this. This is sustainable and still remains a surprise. Gifts are not important to me myself, but I do like to give other people practical things that they can use. Of course, need is always relative.

5. Which Christmas tradition should be eliminated ?

In any case, the social compulsion to be with certain people or to plan something specific. I no longer wish others “happy holidays”, but much rather “happy days off” – after all, not everyone celebrates Christmas. I would also be happy if there were more freedom for non-Christian people.

6. What is your biggest wish for Christmas this year?

I just wish for a few quiet days. And maybe a rouge that I would never buy myself otherwise. I think I'll tell my mom because I've been thinking about buying this for a few months.

We are also celebrating this year in a different way: With our The New Normal advent calendar, we want to put an end to the consumerism at Christmas and bring more appreciation to this time again. Instead of 24 doors, we only have six: On every Sunday in Advent, on Christmas Eve and on the New Year, a full-size, natural, vegan and climate-neutral product can be discovered. And because giving is fun, part of the proceeds goes to our water protection project with Viva von Aqua eV

Our Christmas motto is: more love, less consumption! And it doesn't matter whether and how you spend the Advent season: Do something good for yourself and let this crazy year end with a lot of relaxation. You deserve it.

Written by: Lena Benzrath

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