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HomeMeinung„Get upset“ – Column by Julia Ruhs: The Daycare Christmas Tree Quarrel:...

„Get upset“ – Column by Julia Ruhs: The Daycare Christmas Tree Quarrel: It’s not just about traditions and Wokeness

Things have gone pretty wrong. A Hamburg daycare is forsaking a Christmas tree as a religious symbol this year. The reasoning: They don’t want to “exclude any child and their faith.” Unfortunately, this was not a good idea: The backlash was quick to come.

I understand that many parents are furious and the case has sparked a debate. Because the banned daycare Christmas tree once again raises the question of who should adapt to whom: migrants to the host society (as it should be)? Or the host society to migrants? (That’s the impression the daycare gave).

Not such a big deal

Due to all the pressure and the many nasty hate messages that rained down on the daycare after the reports, the daycare’s carrier clarified on its website: It’s all a misunderstanding, Christian traditions are not being abolished. There will also be Christmas decorations this year, pine branches, baubles, fairy lights.

The onsite team, along with the children, decides how the daycare will be decorated. Furthermore, the daycare has only put up a Christmas tree about three times in the last ten years anyway. So, this year there won’t be a tree. It’s not such a big deal after all.

Crying “Fake News” is exaggerated

Now some are claiming that the media spread fake news. And so did some politicians. But that’s nonsense. After all, the parent letter was actually misleading and exaggeratedly culturally sensitive in its wording. “No Christian festivals are supposed to be celebrated,” it said. But for some people, everything is fake news nowadays if the necessary “contextual interpretation” is missing, in their view.

Sensitivity Reading in service of the majority society

So, next time when composing parental letters, it’s better to critically proofread them one more time – not (only) from an eye trained for the sensitivities of marginalized groups, but rather from a normally thinking person. This way the daycare can prevent offending the majority society again. They still have remnants of religious and cultural feelings that can be hurt.

It’s about more than just a Christmas tree

It’s still surreal. A (lack of) fir tree in a Hamburg daycare becomes a national political issue. This shows: It must be about more than just Christmas decorations. I believe it’s because the fir tree debate encompasses two heavily contested topics: culturally foreign migration and Wokeness. In a time when many migrants of different faiths come to our country, the presumed renunciation of their own traditions strikes a nerve.

The fear of cultural submission and self-sacrifice

Even though the Christmas tree is originally a pagan custom (we all learned that in the course of the debate) – it carries enormous symbolic significance. It has become a part of the Christian-Western tradition. And traditions are important, they provide identity and structure. They are reliable in times of increasing disorientation. And we undoubtedly have that – nowadays, we can’t even refer to stress-free existence of just two genders.

If a Christmas tree is not put up out of perceived religious sensitivity towards others, it reinforces the feeling of cultural self-sacrifice for me. That one’s own culture must become invisible, sacrificed for multiculturalism. So that other religions have their unharmed safe space.

Sorry, but that’s not tolerance, but rather insensitivity – towards the majority society.

Time for some outrage-free, festive reconciliation

However, I believe the Christmas tree debate also offers room for festive reconciliation. It shows that Woke and Anti-Woke – these two factions are not so different after all: Woke individuals perceive the destructive power of discrimination in excessively numerous everyday events, lamenting an allegedly intrusive word, a phrase, a gesture.

On the other hand, the anti-woke faction now sees the censorship of a radical Cancel Culture in excessively numerous everyday events – like in the case of the Tannenbaum. They would never term it thus, but announcing not to set up a Christmas tree is, for them, a microaggression. The outrage on both sides is often exaggerated, so let’s just agree on that.

The woke madness could be worse

Let’s see if this will be the sole debate about woke Christmas. After visiting a few this year, I can say: everything is as it always was. The Christmas market is still called the Christmas market – or here in Bavaria: Christkindlmarkt.

Even the film “die Feuerzangenbowle” from 1944 has not been cancelled and is allowed to be broadcast on television in its original version. At my old university, there were regular protests and flyer campaigns against this film. It is also shown in the lecture hall during the pre-Christmas season. Left-wing student groups found it objectionable, partly due to its controversial (but exaggerated by them) Nazi history.

Yet this year, they also failed to ban the film from the university campus. So, I think it could be worse.



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