Monday, December 29, 2014

How to celebrate Christmas

German and British soldiers meeting each other, Christmas 1914

For most who read this blog Christmas will already be past, in case they celebrate it; for some others it has yet to come. How did or do you celebrate it?
Wittgenstein didn’t like to celebrate Christmas with his family in Vienna. It made him depressive and often it wasn’t a really enjoyable affair. But as it happens in such cases, it was difficult not to go to the yearly family reunion. In order to make the meeting more pleasant, he wrote in November 1929 to his brothers and sisters:
“It is impossible not to see that we are able to do that just on this evening what we couldn’t do and didn’t want to do during the whole year, namely the five of us being together without the company of friends,”.
I do not know how Wittgenstein celebrated Christmas that year. I suppose it was with his brothers and sisters and without friends. But this passage has a clear message that is wider than just the private question for the Wittgenstein family how to pass Christmas in 1929. It says: Sometimes we need mediators to solve our problems or at least a little help from a friend, also for small problems and also for celebrating a merry Christmas or maybe just then, since Christmas is a call for peace.
However, for many people “peace” just only day is nothing else but another word for “truce”: a temporary stop of quarrels or hostilities. That’s what we often see in war. An agreed Christmas truce has a clear beginning and a clear end. When Christmas Day has passed the acts of war will start again. It’s better than nothing, but has it anything to do with the idea of Christmas? I think it hasn’t. When during Christmas 1914 – so exactly hundred years ago – Allied and German soldiers fraternized for some days on the Western Front during the First World War, they were serious and really wanted that this would mean the end of this war, I think. But they were forced to fight again after some days (but at some places this unofficial truce lasted even two weeks) and the worst of this war was yet to come. During Christmas 1915 and later measures were taken by the higher authorities to prevent new fraternizations. Nevertheless, although it doesn’t look like that at the moment, the world has become less violent since the days of World War One (see my blog dated May 27 and June 3, 2013).
And how will you celebrate the turn of the year and what will be your New Year’s resolutions? Anyway, Happy New Year first of all, and then we’ll see.

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