O Tannenbaum


I was going to write something really original about Xmas but just as I began there was a knock at the door and some fellow (was his name Mr Porlock or something, I forget) interrupted my train of thought and… Well, suffice it to say you’ll have to wait for Xmas 2013 for my festive season originality.

Discovered this during the week (ignore the commentary, some of which is wrong, a better description is here). A remarkable and touching series of photos of a German couple from 1900 to 1945, recording their every Xmas together from just married to the death of the wife. Taken in the same room, with Xmas tree, and their presents to each other, every Xmas through those tumultuous German years, outside the room, and their own aging. The complete series sadly seems not to be online, only in a book published some years ago, but the eight available give a very good feel for a life evolving.

As Draaisma observes – “Each of the photographs has been taken on the same day of the year. But against the unvarying background, you notice the changing seasons in a human life all the more clearly. You see how gradual the changes are, though they can also be abrupt, life the first true day of spring every year or the morning when winter seems to have arrived. By moving forward exactly one year with each click of the self-timer, the Wagners demonstrate clearly that the aging process does not follow the even rhythm of the calendar.”

I guess Xmas in general does that for all of us, a series of fixed points at which we can picture ourselves in times past, growing up, then our children in turn, then our grandchildren. And conversely our parents and grandparents, seeing our youthful excitement will have been thinking back through their own lives, to their own childhoods. And so all the way back, through the mediaeval celebrations and legends of “St Nicolas”, through Roman “Saturnalia” and the like, to the various Solstice/mid-Winter pagan festivals which early christianity copied.

No point in being all Christmas carolly about Xmas. The photos of the Wagners show as much sadness as happiness. And all of us can probably remember Xmas events where the ambience was a little strained. You can after all choose friends for your New Year’s Eve guests, but you can’t choose your Xmas family members.

Anyway, apologies again for writing a Xmas post as original as a pair of socks for a present. Thank you all for sticking with this blog, and me, through another year with less than ideal ambience. And thank you all for the support you have shown me – a series of very welcome presents.

I hope the latest in your Xmas series is a good one. Picture Richard Wagner taking your photo.

And smile for the camera.

Happy Christmas!

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13 comments on “O Tannenbaum

  1. debbiep says:

    Happy Christmas David .


  2. Happy Christmas and every good wish for 2013. Thinking of you, David.


  3. Geoff Andrews says:

    Hope you are surrounded by family and look forward to your thoughtful philosophies next year.


  4. Eric Snyder says:

    Never minded a pair of socks for Christmas David, so your post and link to the pics was just as welcome; thanks! Janet & I celebrate our 40th anniversary today and wish we’d have thought to take a pic each of our Christmases together. Very touching to see the record of the German couple.

    Recognizing you don’t celebrate the birth of the Savior, I still extend best wishes for a peaceful, joyful and blessed Christmas and a complete recovery from your illness in 2013!


  5. roshart1 says:

    Dear David,
    You were one of the first people I ever followed on Twitter, when I was dragged there, kicking and screaming, by my old friend, Jill Favero. And I’m so glad she persisting with nagging me to “get with the Twitter program”. You have been such a joy, I’m looking forward to more melon-y joy in 2013.
    PS Is this story about Richard Wagner, the composer? Nothing is mentioned about music in everything I’ve been seeing / reading about this series of photos. The display of presents on and around the table, the pride of place of electrical goods, and the diminishing quantity of gifts as they age – all tell a story.
    PPS – I can’t tell you how it delights me, and is of a great relief, that you are not a “god-botherer”. I would not be here if it were otherwise.
    Looking forward to you continuing to shine your watermelon light in 2013.
    Warmest regards.


    • David Horton says:

      Thank you so much for your kind words Ros, much appreciated. No, it isn’t (thank goodness, he was an awful man) the composer Richard Wagner. The story of this Mr Wagner is told in the second link in the post. Just a very ordinary middle class man working for the railways.


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