Beyond the religious message, the special atmosphere, family focus and the consumptive aspect of the celebration make it particularly appealing in many locations. Known in Germany as the “Fest der Liebe” (celebration of love), Christmas produces high expectations – and likely just as many disappointments. It also leads to exclusions – of those who are alone at Christmas, who can’t afford a special dinner or presents, or who don’t celebrate the holiday for religious or cultural reasons. The Christmas celebration also provides an opportunity to examine diverse areas of social conflict as if under a magnifying glass ‒ for example, the debates about racism, which have been smouldering for many years in the Netherlands with regard to Sinterklaas (Santa Claus/Saint Nicholas)’s companion Zwarte Piet (Black Pete).
Combining a mix of objects from the MEK collection with photographs, music and film, this special exhibition traverses the alphabet to explore light and dark, pop culture and High Mass, protest and humour, all having to do with Christmas. Things that are typically associated with Christmas, such as Advent calendars and Christmas pyramids, are displayed alongside current music videos, Hollywood films and selfies. This array illuminates quite diverse themes, including N for Nachhaltigkeit (sustainability), citing the example of Christmas mass production in the large Chinese city of Yiwu, F for Fernsehen (television) as a ritualised family custom during the holidays, and also T for Tradition, which can be observed very differently.