merry christmas

Merry – what, actually?

Enjoy your holidays!

Actually, I just wanted to make a post to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Of course with a self-made Christmas card. And then some thoughts came to the fore. [1]

First of all, Merry Christmas everyone!

merry christmas

I definitely don’t want to spoil anyone’s Christmas spirit and therefore recommend not reading further if you are easily unsettled by slightly critical thoughts. It’s not an anti-Christmas article, and it’s not meant to be an “everything was better before” article. It’s more about how events that were once of great importance disappear or change over time – sometimes without being noticed. Or that Christmas in Europe and in North America is quite different – or rather was.

The country I come from, Austria, has a longstanding Christmas tradition. The song “Silent Night” was not composed in Austria [2] by chance and is still one of our best-known export items. Our baking tradition is less well known, especially Christmas biscuits, but a recommended alternative to Silent Night.

As for all children, Christmas was of course also a very special celebration for my siblings and me. What is particularly well remembered is how our father managed to do it every year and make people believe that there would not be Christmas this year. Tension at its finest.

Past: When the Christ Child was disposed of.

The Christ Child? Well, until my puberty I never heard of Santa Claus – here in Europe, the Christ child was responsible for Christmas. In German, we call it “Christkind”. No idea what it should have looked like, probably something with wings on it 😊 I never knew if it was male or female (more female, an angel), how old it was, or what it looked like exactly. But it doesn’t mean the little baby Jesus in the manger. It must be a bit older since it commands a host of little angels to fabricate all the gifts. For us children, it was more of an abstract term, something associated with “getting gifts”. Even if those gifts were often only “useful”, necessities, like a new sweater or a warm hat.

While looking through an old box of photos recently, I came across this one of my brother receiving a chocolate bar for Christmas. The picture says a lot. What joy in his eyes – a bar of chocolate!

Christmas photo with chocolate bar

Present: What’s different since then?

Visually noticeable: more or less no more snow. In terms of content: In our geographical latitudes, communist East Germany was the first to kill the Christ Child. At least the word as such. Instead, the following term was coined (because the Christ Child was still in people’s minds): “year-end winged figure” (Jahresendflügelfigur). So never say that the old East Germans had no imagination.

What a word! Only later, during my time in China at the end of the 1970s, did I learn that you should no longer say Merry Christmas, but Merry Xmas. And then “Season greetings”. Kinda “year-end winged figure” brain acrobatics western style.

Around this time, Santa gradually made its way into our country and gradually pushed the Christ Child out of the vocabulary. Although the concept of “Santa drives up in a truck with harmful, sugary drinks” was never really popular, nativity scenes with ox and donkey gradually disappeared, at least in urban areas.


Certainly, also due to the economic improvements, Christmas in the 80-90s became more lavish for many from year to year: more expensive gifts, often on credit (strongly increasing inflow at debt advice centers after Christmas), lavish Christmas feasts (strongly increasing inflow among weight-loss gurus after Christmas). The Christmas trees got bigger and cooler and after Christmas, the divorce rate was at its highest.

Slowly the boring, ubiquitous Christmas music blare in the shopping centers was replaced by more meaningful music like. “Last Christmas I gave you my heart…” . You can’t get it that cheap anymore – unless it’s set with diamonds.

modern christmas

And we have lost something else in these peaceful times: the Christmas peace between the warring parties. Those days of peace during war did bring something like confidence to them. A brief pause to breathe and gain some hope. Our parents, who suffered greatly during the war, attached great importance to this aspect.

What has changed, however, is the behavior of givers and recipients in particular.
Last week I read that most children wanted a new mobile phone for St. Nicholas Day (December 6th) this year. Last year, cosmetic surgery, particularly breast augmentation, was at the top of the Christmas wish list for teenage girls.

Future: Santa’s Sacking

Now that the Christ Child has been dealt with and the Coke truck will soon be history, Santa Claus will not be driving his reindeer for much longer either.

santa retiring
Photo by Luca Rossato via Flickr Creative Commons

What makes me think so? Well, Santa Claus is the very prototype of the Old White Man – literally. That concept has no future. A solution preferred by certain groups would be a female counterpart to Santa Claus. (It has undoubtedly been widely discussed). But feminism and Christmas? Gay doesn’t work at all, either way, no matter how you look at it.

But: A gender-neutral replacement would be a workable solution. Something like a “year-end wing figure”. Or, maybe even better, something like a Christ Child?


A custom here in Austria that is also about to disappear is the pre-Christmas Krampus run [3]. Here is a video from 2010 that gives a pretty good impression of our custom 🙂


[1] Some time ago I was reflecting on how inflation occurs and what areas of our lives it affects. Christmas is definitely one of them.

[2] The song’s lyrics were originally written in German just after the end of the Napoleonic Wars by a young Austrian priest named Joseph Mohr. In the fall of 1816, Mohr’s congregation in the town of Mariapfarr was reeling. 

[3] The word Krampus originates from the Old High German word for claw (Krampen). In the Alpine regions, the Krampus is a mythical horned figure represented as accompanying Saint Nicholas. Krampus acts as an anti–Saint Nicholas, who, instead of giving gifts to good children, gives warnings and punishments to the bad children. Traditionally, young men dress up as the Krampus in the first two weeks of December, particularly in the evening of December 5, and roam the streets frightening children and women with rusty chains, hammers and bells. This figure is believed to originate from stories of house spirits such as kobolds or elves.






53 responses to “Merry – what, actually?”

  1. Graham Stephen avatar

    “year-end winged figure” – excellent!



  2. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

    What the human mind can think of 🙂

  3. seankfletcher avatar

    My family try and stick to its traditions as best it can. My wife makes the pickled onions. My sister in law makes the Christmas cake. My mother in law makes the pudding using the recipe handed down by wife’s grandmother – she was a cook in one of the great manor houses in England.

    Then there are the responsibilities of family members to carry out certain things on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. We are also tending to put up more Christmas lights each year.

    I typically introduce a celebratory mood into workplaces I end up in because the Christmas spirit has often dissipated.

    Yes, things have changed and will continue to change. I have always been fascinated by the Krampas. It would be a sad moment if such a tradition was to disappear.

    Merry Christmas to you, Friedrich 🎄🎁🎄

  4. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

    Merry Christmas to you too! I am glad that you can spend such happy holidays with your family! Yes, traditions are important – they convey consistency. All the best!

  5. The Sicilian Storyteller avatar

    Fascinating! Thanks for sharing this with us. Frohe Weihnachten!!

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Buon Natale anche a te e ai tuoi cari!

  6. julianeus avatar

    happy christmas to you!!

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much! Happy Christmas to you and your family too!

  7. Shobana Gomes avatar

    It’s true. Christmas has become very commercialized in recent times. I watched the video. Very interesting. Merry Christmas.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Definitely – but we do not care. Do we? Happy Christmas to you and yours!

      1. Shobana Gomes avatar

        Yes, we carry on with traditions. Thanks so much for your kind wishes.

  8. Nautilus avatar

    In the Rumanian folklore there was a character somewhat similar to the modern Santa Claus. But our Moș Crăciun (”Old Father Christmas”) was wearing white sheepskin clothes, and sometimes he also had an axe 🙂
    This traditional image may have been long lost. I only found it in books.

    During my childhood I imagined Santa Claus coming in a sledge pulled by a hare, like in a poem I learned in the kindergarden. Maybe this was a later urban invention, maybe it has some folkloric origins, I don’t know. However, Santa Claus had exactly the same appearance he has today (except for the hare instead of the reindeers).

    The communists tried to replace Moș Crăciun with ”Moș Gerilă” (a version of the Russian Ded Moroz), but this prooved to be unsuccesful, even in those times.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thanks very much! Yes, the customs in Romania are very special and I hope that some things can last for a long time! Not just Count D. 🙂

      And yes, the communists tried and failed in so many ways. It would also be a pity to banish something if it brings so much joy. Happy Holidays to you and your family!

  9. Stacey C. Johnson avatar
    Stacey C. Johnson

    Merry Christmas to you and yours, Friedrich!

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you so much Stacey! Merry Christmas to you and your family too! And all the best for 2023!

      1. Stacey C. Johnson avatar
        Stacey C. Johnson

        Cheers to that!

  10. Rosaliene Bacchus avatar

    I love your Christmas card and the touch of Santa Claus with his flying reindeer. A fascinating account of the evolution of Christmas celebrations in Austria. The modern Nativity Scene is spot on. As I see it, Santa Claus will only lose his appeal when he ceases to bring in profits for the giant corporations. A Merry Christmas to you, too!

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thanks very much! Yes, I also think Santa Claus will only lose his appeal when he ceases to bring in profits for the giant corporations. It would be too expensive to create a new cash cow. Happy Holidays to you and yours too!

  11. leo f. brady avatar

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you as well! 😉

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you Leo, the same to you and yours.

  12. Martha Kennedy avatar

    The future will be itself, I guess. Who knows how it will see these days of the year, how — or if — they will be celebrated. 🎄

    Frohe Weihnachten und ein glückliches Neues Jahr, Friedrich.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Danke, Matha, auch Dir ein Frohes F

    2. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Danke, Martha, auch Dir ein Frohes Fest und alles Gute für 2023! Vor allem Gesundheit. Friedrich

  13. swabby429 avatar

    The commercialization of holidays has done great harm to all of the holidays. Christmas, which commemorates a humble, savior figure is now a crucial time to inject vast amounts of money into the economy. Of course, this is a common complaint these days.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      That’s the way it is. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s now also Christmas in July 🙂 The whole thing became a perversion of a basically good idea. All the best for 2023!

      1. swabby429 avatar

        Amen. I do much of my holiday shopping in July to avoid the crowds and get bargains. 😎

  14. Ashley avatar

    For several years our celebrations at this time have been diminished; very low-key affairs! Everything is far too commercial. I’m not a Pagan but celebrating the Winter Solstice seems to me to be more uplifting; just thinking about moving from the dark to the light makes me happy. Best wishes for 2023 🍷🙋‍♂️

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      The connection of the original idea of Christmas with the Winter Solstice and the New Year would be a good occasion to welcome the New. Yes, I’m no pagan either, but Christmas has become something I like to stay away from. All the best for 2023 for you and your loved ones!

  15. acrylicphil avatar

    Merry Christmas, Friedrich. Thank you for all your posts this year.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      I thank you, Philip! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  16. zipgong avatar

    An outstanding post. By the way … exceptional greetings, without exception!

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you you very much 🙏 I wish you happy holidays ans all the best for 2023? Good health and much inspiration for many more great works!

  17. Pratik avatar

    Nice blog

  18. Carolyn Kaiser Harmon avatar

    Friedrich, I wish you much Christmas peace and the continued presence of the Christ child, your brother, and chocolate. ❤️ Thanks for the beauty your thoughts and art bring.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you so much Carolyn! All the best for 2023! May it be one of your best years ever!

  19. luisa zambrotta avatar

    Best wishes for a joyous Christmas filled with love, happiness and prosperity

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much, Luisa! The same to you and yours! May 2023 become one of your best years ever!

      1. luisa zambrotta avatar


  20. pkadams avatar

    Still plenty of Christ in Christmas in America. Just avoid the big cities. 🎄

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Yes, it’s similar here. In the countryside, old traditions are held even more firmly. Happy New Year!

  21. Tokeloshe. avatar

    Best wishes for the New Year as well.🍾

  22. SoundEagle 🦅ೋღஜஇ avatar

    Dear Friedrich Zettl 狐胡,

    Please kindly allow me to bring you Santa in the following manner:

    Yours sincerely,

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you for the wonderful meme! So funny! May your nest always be filled with surprises in 2023!

      1. SoundEagle 🦅ೋღஜஇ avatar

        Dear Friedrich Zettl 狐胡,

        You are very welcome! This amusing cartoon originates from my post entitled “🦅🎅 SoundEagle Bringing Santa Claus with Gift to “Some Quaint-Perched Eyrie on the Cliffs of Time”: An Introduction to English Literature and Comedy Novel ‘Three Men in a Boat’ ⛵”, and is available at

        Yours sincerely,

  23. SoundEagle 🦅ೋღஜஇ avatar

    Dear Friedrich Zettl 狐胡,

    I finally found a festive post of yours here. Thank you for wishing us “Merry Christmas”. I shall reciprocate your Christmas spirit as follows. Like you, I have also joined the festive spirit and previously published one year ago a special post entitled “🎊 Season’s Greetings: Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year 🎄🎅☃️” to celebrate the festive season. The post combines art, graphics, poems, music and animations. May you relish my post to your heart’s content, as I have yours. After all, it is the time of the year to send you some mellifluous text, glorious images and eye-catching animations presented in the following post:

    I hope that you will thoroughly enjoy the animations featured at my said post. In addition, please turn on your finest speakers or headphones, as my aforementioned festive post will be playing music to you automatically for about two minutes.

    Wishing you and your family a Happy New Year!

    May you find 2023 very much to your liking and highly conducive to your travelling, dining, writing, reading, thinking, critiquing and blogging whatever topics that take your intellectual fancy and creative whim!

    Take care and prosper!

    Yours sincerely,

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you for your kind wishes, which have landed in my heart and will light the path into the New Year. So may your path be illuminated with happiness, joy and harmony. All the best and thanks again for your positive spririt!

      1. SoundEagle 🦅ೋღஜஇ avatar

        Dear Friedrich Zettl 狐胡,

        Once again, you are very welcome! I would be very delighted if you could kindly leave a memorable token of your visit to my said post by leaving a comment there. After all, I have missed your presence at my blog for a long time. Thank you in anticipation.

        Yours sincerely,

      2. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

        Done! I tried to post an answer a few times but had problems. Now it seems to work again. All the best!

  24. jeannette-paterakis avatar

    Wie sich die Zeit ändert und wir mit ihr. Je älter man wird ,sieht man zurück auf die Vergangenheit,sie erscheint wie ein Film,ein anderer Film. Wie seltsam . Danke fürs Aufzeigen der Änderung.Liebe Grüße und alles Gute.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Danke vielmals! Ja, unsere Erinnerungen sind schon eine eigene Sache 🙂 Aber solange die positiven den Ton angeben, kann ich damit leben 🙂 Liebe Gruesse zurueck und alles erdenklich Gute fuer 2023!

      1. jeannette-paterakis avatar

        Herzlichen Dank,ich wünsche dir das Allerbeste .

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