Thursday, December 24, 2009

Holiday images -- a spirit that transcends the circumstances.

A staged patriotic postcard, showing a young German soldier of the Great War, with Christmas gifts from the homeland, probably around 1915.

In a lot of ways, this hasn't been a good year for many of us. But now here it is Christmas--the year is almost done, which is a relief in itself. But it is also a time of year when we reflect on what we have; we feel hope that the darkness will end; and we enjoy each other's company and fellowship.

Despite the circumstances, we celebrate.

I wanted to share some images with you I collected over the years that I think nicely illustrate this hopeful reality. The following are postcards recording or representing celebrations of the holiday by German and Austrian soldiers in the very midst of an incredible, terrible event that had engulfed the world: the Great War of 1914-1918.

Above, some Austrian soldiers in a front line dugout celebrate Christmas in this lithographed patriotic postcard of 1916. An imagined scene, you say? Look at the below "real photo" postcard, showing Austrian soldiers in the field in 1916, with their Christmas tree.

Note the little sign that says this is their third Christmas in the field, and the guy with the accordion, no doubt accompanying his comrades as they sing carols.

Here are German soldiers in a lithographed post card showing them celebrating Christmas in their crude dugout in 1914. One man is playing a harmonica, while others sing.

An original photograph of German soldiers in a rear area billet later in the war, drinking beer and gathered around their rather spindly tree with tiny candles. Judging by the uniforms, I think this most likely is 1917.

So don't give up. The human spirit is incredibly resilient. Find joy and hope and fellowship where you can, and embrace it for all it is worth. Have the best holiday that you possibly can.
Opening gifts from home, probably 1914

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