Not just at Christmas time

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A story by Heinrich Böll that the author read during the gathering of Group 47 at Berlepsch Castle in early November 1952 is not just about Christmas time . It is considered the writer's first satire. The short story by Alfred Andersch was published the following month . After the radio version was broadcast in the same year, Pastor Hans-Werner von Meyenn accused the author of Böll of “denigrating the German mind”.

The first-person narrator exemplifies the emergency: What if it was Christmas every evening? with reference to the failure to come to terms with the Nazi era, especially in Catholicism .


It is about "signs of decline" in the relationship of the first-person narrator. These take their course around Candlemas 1947, when the narrator's aunt Milla does not want to part with her Christmas tree and screams incessantly when the prop is being decorated and about to be removed from the living room. After medical professionals were unsuccessfully consulted, Uncle Franz, the aunt's husband, finally found the solution. Uncle Franz prescribes a "Christmas tree therapy" for Aunt Milla with lasting success. For almost two years now, every evening - winter and summer - Christmas Eve is celebrated with all the trimmings, with the tree, a Christmas angel whispering "peace, peace, peace" every day, etc.

The wrongly dramatic situation: The old quirky Aunt Milla is the only one of the relatives who emerges from the permanent Christmas undamaged - apart from her Christmas craze. Outwardly looking healthy and cheerful, she celebrates with the retired clergyman from the neighborhood and the mimes who later became involved.

Briefly about the course of the celebration: At first, after months, the adults get tired of nibbling speculoos. The above Signs of deterioration take different forms. Cheating, fits of rage, emigration of whole family members to equatorial Africa and even conversion from Catholicism to Communism occur. Over time, the relatives of the evening let themselves be represented one by one at Aunt Milla's by unemployed actors. An unemployed stage manager finally brought the evening event over the stage for months without complaint. Eventually the children have to be replaced by wax dolls. That decline is unstoppable. In the end, Uncle Franz gets tired of life after cheating, and one of the narrator's cousins, a boxer by trade, goes to a monastery as a lay brother.


The narrator, after having identified his brother-in-law as the only relative among the actors in Aunt Milla's Christmas circle with some difficulty: "There seem to be unmistakable traits of individuality".


  • Der Spiegel, December 24th, 1952: Böll's "immortalized Christmas party is unmistakably the parable of our cultural establishment, which seeks to restore a time - as the author says - 'I assumed it was over', with all the finesse and seemingly to restore [ ...]. "
  • Gerber also briefly goes into Aunt Milla's "hysterical complex" and his Adler- style psychological discussion . Böll is said to have particularly valued his story.
  • In their detailed review, Sowinski and Schneidewind emphasize “the grotesque poetic idea”.
  • Bernsmeier analyzes the "ordeal of the celebrations".

Radio and film adaptation

Already on December 30, 1952, after the celebration of Christmas, the then NWDR , directed by Fritz Schröder-Jahn, broadcast the radio version of Alfred Andersch with Heinz Rühmann as speaker, Reinhold Lütjohann as Uncle Franz and Thea Maria Lenz as Aunt Milla. According to the introductory text, the "counterfeit character of a restorative era" should be denounced.

Vojtěch Jasný filmed the satire under the original title with Edith Heerdegen as Aunt Milla and René Deltgen as Uncle Franz for television. Heinrich Böll wrote the script. The ZDF aired the film on December 30, 1970th


  • Heinrich Böll: Not just at Christmas time . In: Heinrich Böll works. Novels and short stories 1. 1947–1952. Edited by Bernd Balzer . Kiepenheuer & Witsch , Cologne 1977 (supplemented new edition 1987), ISBN 3-462-01871-X , pp. 810-838
First edition
  • Heinrich Böll: Not just at Christmas time . Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne / Berlin 1955, OCLC 73267014 . [Edition with a text revised by Böll.]
  • Heinrich Böll: Not just at Christmas time. Narratives . dtv 11591, Munich 1998, ISBN 978-3-423-11591-9
  • Franz-Josef Antwerpes : Heinrich Böll: Not only at Christmas time . Audio CD, 70 min. Hörbuchverlag, Hamburg 2000, ISBN 978-3-423-11591-9
  • Heinrich Böll: Works (Cologne edition). Volume 6, Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 2007, ISBN 978-3-462-03280-2
  • Heinrich Böll: Not only at Christmas time: The Advent calendar book . Edition Büchergilde, Frankfurt am Main 2013, ISBN 978-3-86406-032-8
Research literature
  • Harald Gerber: Explanations on Heinrich Böll. Short stories, short stories, novels. Part II. Restoration and the affluent society. C. Bange, Hollfeld (Upper Franconia). 1988, ISBN 3-8044-0363-8 , pp. 11-19
  • Bernhard Sowinski, Wolf Egmar Schneidewind: Heinrich Böll. Satirical stories . Oldenbourg , Munich 1988, ISBN 3-486-88600-2 , pp. 15-34
  • Werner Bellmann (ed.): The work of Heinrich Böll. Bibliography with studies on early work. Westdeutscher Verlag , Opladen 1995, ISBN 3-531-12694-6
  • Helmut Bernsmeier: Heinrich Böll . Reclam , Stuttgart 1997, ISBN 3-15-015211-9 , pp. 70-78
  • Gero von Wilpert : Lexicon of world literature. German authors AZ . Kröner, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-520-83704-8 , p. 68
  • Werner Bellmann: On Heinrich Böll's satire "Not only at Christmas time". Data, facts, background. In: Wirkendes Wort , German language and literature in research and teaching 66 (2016) Issue 1, pp. 53–65. ISSN  0935-879X ,
  • Robert C. Conard: Heinrich Böll's "Not only at Christmas time": A satire for all ages. In: The Germanic Review. Volume 59, 1984, No. 3, pp. 97-103.
  • Norbert Feinäugle: Heinrich Böll: “Not only at Christmas time”. In: Literature in Class. Models for narrative and dramatic texts in secondary level I and II. Ed. By Gerhard Haas . Reclam, Stuttgart 1982, pp. 156-175, ISBN 3-15-010309-6 .
  • Erhard Friedrichsmeyer: “Not just at Christmas time” . In: Heinrich Böll. Novels and short stories. Interpretations . Edited by Werner Bellmann. Reclam, Stuttgart 2000, pp. 70-81, ISBN 3-15-017514-3 .
  • Heinrich Moling: Heinrich Böll: a "Christian" position. Juris, Zurich 1974, ISBN 3-260-03600-8 (dissertation University of Zurich 1974, 306 pages).
  • Fernando Grasso: The role of religion in Heinrich Böll presented on the basis of his experiences and expressions from his youth up into the eighties and on the basis of some of his characters and themes from the fifties and sixties . Kempten 1991, dissertation (Tesi di Laura) at the Libera Università di Lingue e Comunicazione, Facoltà di Lingue e Letterature Straniere, IULM Istituto Universitario di Lingue Moderne, Milano 1989, 296 pages ( full text online PDF, free of charge, 296 pages, 939 kB, German).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Source, p. 877
  2. a b Bellmann, p. 134
  3. Bernsmeier, p. 76, 19. Zvo
  4. Source, p. 838
  5. Source, p. 836, 14. Zvo
  6. Quoted from Bellmann, 2016, p. 63; ibid. pp. 61 and 63 further information on the use of the term "existentialism" and the name "Söderbaum" for the Christmas tree fresh service.
  7. Gerber, pp. 16, 18
  8. Sowinski, Schneidewind, p. 24
  9. Bernsmeier, p. 72
  10. Sowinski, Schneidewind, p. 15
  11. Weblink IMDb