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  • Christmas in Berlin: A festive photo history


Christmas in Berlin: A festive photo history

Dive into a festive time capsule with these photos of Berlin Christmas celebrations over the last century.

A Christmas tree in front of the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburger Tor in 1989. Photo: IMAGO / Sven Simon

Ever wondered what a Berlin Christmas party looked like a hundred years ago? From the roaring ’20s of the Weimar Republic to life behind the Berlin Wall, these snapshots capture the city’s holiday spirit through the highs and lows of the last century. Frohe Weihnachten, Berlin!

A German family sings Christmas carols under the Christmas tree in 1918. Photo: IMAGO / Jürgen Ritter

At the outset of the First World War, people apparently told each other “it’ll be over by Christmas”. Now, in Christmas 1918, it finally was. Just a month on from the end of the war and the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II, this family gathered to celebrate together. 

A Christmas market takes place in front of the Berliner Dom, Mitte in 1935. Photo: IMAGO / Arkivi

In 1935, Germany was two years into Nazi rule and enjoying a period of prosperity as the country recovered from the depression. In September of that year, however, the infamous and racist Nuremberg Laws severely restricted the rights of Jews. But Christmas markets – like this one in front of the Berliner Dom – continued as usual.

A plane-loaded with Christmas presents from the USA reaches its destination via the Berlin Airlift in December 1948. Photo: IMAGO / Everett Collection

During the Berlin Airlift, allied soldiers didn’t just break the Soviet blockade, they played Santa too while delivering a famous propaganda victory for the West. During Christmas time, US troops delivered Christmas presents to lift spirits in the isolated West Berlin.

Checkpoint officers decorate a Christmas tree outside their post at the Brandenburger Tor in 1956. Photo: IMAGO / ZUMA/Keystone

“Where are your papers?” In the early stages of the Cold War, two border checkpoint officers stand at the border of the English sector, near the Brandenburg Gate, decorating a Christmas tree. 

The Christmas market at Jannowitzbrücke in East Berlin in 1970. Photo: IMAGO / Gerhard Leber

Christmas markets were a staple of the holiday season in Germany – no matter which side of the Wall you were on. This one, which stretched from Alexanderplatz to Jannowitzbrücke, took place in the heart of East Berlin.

Christmas decorations on Wilmersdorfer Straße, Charlottenburg in 1987. Photo: IMAGO / Stana

In 1980s West Berlin, Christmas shopping was a vibrant affair. Bustling streets, eclectic stores, and a cool, cosmopolitan vibe made it a festive adventure in the heart of a divided city.

Life in the former DDR just four weeks after the border was opened in 1989. Photo: IMAGO / localpic

You wouldn’t be able to tell from this snapshot, but soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall, life in the former DDR was a whirlwind of change. Some of these kids would be celebrating their first christmas under capitalism: Sega Genesis, Game Boy, Polly Pocket! Who could have imagined what amazing objects your parents will feel guilty about not buying you now!

A Christmas tree in front of the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburger Tor in 1989. Photo: IMAGO / Sven Simon

While the first border crossings of the Berlin Wall were opened on November 9, 1989, large parts of the Wall itself remained standing until the early 1990s. By the Christmas of 1989, Berliners (from East and West) could already visit famous sections of the Wall, like those which ran along the Brandenburger Tor.

Revueballet Christmas performance at the Friedrichstadtpalast in 1994. Photo: IMAGO / Gueffroy

In the 90s,Christmas revues at the iconic Friedrichstadt-Palast were the epitome of festive glitz. Think sequins, high kicks, and holiday cheer on steroids. Lucky Berliners had a front-row seat to seasonal spectacle and sparkles galore!

Trees illuminated for Christmas on Unter den Linden in 2002. Photo: IMAGO / Koall 

Christmas in the new millennium. This year, the trunks of all the trees on Unter den Linden were illuminated in a remarkable spectacle. This is also the first picture on this list in which German currency was the euro. €2.99 for a döner? Those were the days.