How a Berlin Christmas exhibition focuses on diversity

Two sides of Christmas
Jolka Festival

This alternative of the ChristmasJolka Festival” focuses on variety in the Soviet Union. 

After the October Revolution in 1917, Christmas was banned within the Soviet Union. In 1937, the state created Jolka festivity as an alternative, celebrated on December 31.  

A pine tree is known as “Jolka” is decorated during this festivity. Winter represents characters from Russian fairytales. Including Father Frost and Snow Maiden, who come together.

Museum Curator Iris Edenheiser quoted, “to me, that’s an excellent example of an invented tradition that has become a steadfast tradition.” 

The present Christmas-themed exhibition developed by Edenheiser at Berlin’s Museum titled “A wide Advent, Z wie Zoff. Ein Weihnachts-ABC”, both dark and good sides are explored by the festival. It runs till January 2020.  

Two sides of Christmas 

There are two sides to the festivity, stated the curator, each represented within the exhibition. According to the curator, it is high time for many people due to positivity. It has a dark side.

Sennheiser stated that it reveals many differences as many poor people cannot celebrate the festival. People who cannot bear the closeness of family ties. Holidays also produce a lot of waste and raise questions on sustainability.  

The items shown in the exhibition vary from conventional Advent calendars to popular kitsch and political poster. The Russian house gives a paper cutout winter scene representing the Jolka Festival to kids in East Germany in 1989.

It was symbolic because the Berlin Wall had fallen. This Jolka festival where people from both West and East could spend time collectively. 

Pointing the highlight on racism 

The exhibition’s theme is based on alphabets. Each alphabet represents something related to the Christmas festival. Some of them mean current issues also.

For example, the letter S stands for “Sinterklaas,” reflecting the ongoing debate and racism otherwise known as St. Nicholas.

The theme does not emphasise the jolly older man who, on December 5, bring gifts for good little Dutch girls and boys.  Instead, it explores the debate around “Zwarte Piet” or “Black Pete,” Sinterklaas’ servant, based on racist stereotypes. 

The holiday season begins in November, marking events, public events, parades around the Netherlands. People are dressed as Black Pete wearing a blackface, a curly wig, and 16th-century clothes of slaves and servants.  

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