Once upon a time a country named Germany had lost a war which now we know as World War II. WWII had been a very long and taxing war for everybody, but it had been especially terrible for the Germans because they were the losers. As it happens in cases like this, consequences for the defeated were catastrophic. After the war German people were in a miserable state: many among them were unable to work and thus had nothing to eat. Those were grim and sad times.
The city of Hamburg was one among many of the German cities that had gotten devastated during the conflict. Also during these sad and difficult times though, in the port of the city of Hamburg, fishing trawlers from Iceland used to be docked. Icelandic fishermen were good-hearted and couldn’t help being sympathetic to the poor Germans queueing where all the foreign ships were docked. They offered the Germans of Hamburg fish soup to alleviate their hunger.
The Germans of Hamburg didn’t forget the generosity of the Icelandic fishermen and when things got better they wanted to reward them. In 1965 the Wikingerrude association of Hamburg sent a Christmas tree to Iceland as a token of gratitude. They sent their Christmas trees year after year, for forty-four years without interruption. Icelanders gladly accepted the gift; to them lighting up the Hamburg tree became tradition. It would’ve been nice if the story ended here with the expected “happily ever after” and so forth. However, the story ends differently from what we would expect.
Tradition is going to be preserved in any case, but as most traditions after a long time a twist in the plot is introduced and things are bound to be different from a certain point on. The Wikingerrunde association of Hamburg has ceased activity so they couldn’t send the Christmas tree for the 45th time in a row. This year the Hamburg tree is not “made in Germany” but it’s native of Iceland. It’s “made in West Iceland” — Borgarfjördur, to be more precise. According to official sources, the tree is nearly ten meters high. It’s been lit at the Midbakki pier, in the Reykjavík harbor.
We went to the ceremony, even if some of the fascination was lost after we read the Hamburg tree was no longer from Hamburg. Alas, I couldn’t get over the fact the tradition has now acquired some fake aftertaste. There weren’t hordes of people gathering around the tree as we were expecting. After the tree got lit up, Hermann J. Sausen, the German Ambassador to Iceland, presented special greetings also on the city of Hamburg’s behalf. We then assisted to the caroling cuteness of a children’s choir. I have no idea about what was that they were singing, but it must have been a very popular carol from the local Christmas tradition, as all adults seemed to know the words and were singing and dancing along with the children. I tried taking pictures, but I ended being sandwiched between an old woman who accompanied her singing with flamboyant gestures and a huge man in a dark coat who must have been 50+ years who was very much absorbed into his dancing. I couldn’t avoid any of them to take a decent shot. The German Ambassador was dancing too. Everybody looked very happy; I felt very awkward — a party pooper, that is — and out of place. It all looked very weird, almost like a scene from another time.