DEC 2 CHRISTMAS TREE CONTROVERSY IN BERLIN
Ah...it's finally December! And what better way to start the holiday season than for everyone to gather at the town square for a CHRISTMAS TREE LIGHTING FESTIVAL. And no one knows how to do a Christmas trees quite like the Germans...after all they invented them! And one of the most famous tree-lighting events takes place in Charlottenberg, one of Berlin's oldest and quaintest neighborhoods. People huddled together at sunset on the cobblestone platz near the cathedral, anxiously awaiting the unveiling of the tree. But, to every one's horror, the usual stately fir was replaced by an odd modern-art monstrosity: A 90-foot high, 40-foot wide white balloon with a huge gold star on top. "IS NOTHING SACRED?" shocked Berliners screamed!
Duner's favorite German tabloid, Die Bild, quickly took up the story and has unleashed a fury of opinion. On one side, we have a modern viewpoint. Deforestation is a serious problem in Northern Europe. Even though rigorous reforms have saved huge amounts of forestland, man-made problems, like pollution and climate change, continue to threaten one of the world's oldest timberlands. And...as we all know...Germans LOVE to hike in the forests. So why do we really need to cut down a two-hundred year-old tree just for a holiday celebration? Germany prides itself on having the first major environmental political party back in 1980's (the Greens). Where is that progressive spirit now?
On the other side, we have the traditionalist Germans, who pride themselves on having the first Christmas tree. Uh-oh...sounds like it's time for another HISTORY LESSON!! (Don't you just love the Duner-blog?) As the legend goes...way back, around the year 700, the area around modern-day Berlin was still under the control of Norse Vikings. As always, they were at odds with the Catholics who refused to worship their gods. One daring priest, St. Bonafice, went to a Norse encampment and chopped down the sacred TREE OF THOR. He took the majestic fir back to his church and Christianity and fir trees have been linked since. However, it wasn't until seven hundred years later that the tree would specifically represent Christmas. In the 1500's, MARTIN LUTHER championed the Christmas tree as a protestant counterpart to the Catholic nativity scene.
Sorry...you know how I get when I start telling history lessons! Back to Berlin. Recently, the controversy has quelled. Sure, the tree...or balloon...is still gracing the square in Charlottenburg. But thankfully, there are dozens of other squares in the German capital that still have a magnificently decorated Tannenbaum to enjoy. Sure, you may have to go all the way to Potsdam, but at least all in Berlin can agree on one thing: Christmas is a time for everyone to enjoy, environmentalists, traditionalists, Norse Vikings and you!!