What do Saxony’s Ore Mountains, Rovaniemi near the Arctic Circle in Finland and the Chinese city of Yiwu have in common? They all live from Christmas! Christmas has established itself internationally on an unparalleled scale. The holiday is now celebrated right around the world as a seasonal festivity – by Christians and non-Christians alike.
Its unique atmosphere, its focus on family ties and its consumerist aspect have allowed Christmas to transcend its religious message and adapt to a range of cultural contexts. Known in Germany as the Fest der Liebe (festivity of love), Christmas produces high expectations – and often a whole lot of disappointment. It can also lead to feelings of exclusion – for those who are alone at Christmas time, who can’t afford a fancy dinner or presents, or who don’t celebrate the holiday for religious or cultural reasons. At the same time, Christmas shines a spotlight on various areas of social conflict ‒ such as the debates around racism that have been simmering for years in the Netherlands with regard to Sinterklaas’s companion Zwarte Piet (Black Pete).
Bringing together a mix of objects from the MEK collection with photographs, music and film, this exhibition uses a Yuletide alphabet to explore light and dark, pop culture and High Mass, protest and humour. Things that are typically associated with Christmas, such as Advent calendars and gifts, are displayed alongside contemporary music videos, Hollywood films and selfies. This array of objects sheds light on a whole range of themes, including N for Nachhaltigkeit (sustainability), which looks at the mass production of Christmas trinkets in the Chinese city of Yiwu; F for Films, exploring the role of television as a ritualised family custom during the holidays; and T for Tradition – something that can be observed in very different ways.