My fellow Germans, my wife and I send our warmest greetings to
you all this Christmas. Whether you will be spending these days alone
or with family, in a festive apartment or on night shift, in the room of a
nursing home, as a nurse or doctor on the ward, or on duty at the police
or fire station – wherever you happen to be: we wish all of you a happy
and blessed Christmas!
When we look back on the past year, we see much that worries us,
much, too, that made us fearful. We remember the catastrophic floods
in the summer. We remember our soldiers who returned home from
Afghanistan, and also the people who have remained there amid
suffering and starvation. We are concerned by the news we hear from
many regions of our turbulent world, also and particularly from Eastern
And yet this past year also saw much which gives us hope. I am
thinking of the tremendous solidarity with the flood victims, of the
donations and especially of the huge practical assistance. I am thinking
of the many young and not so young people who are committed to
protecting the environment and mitigating climate change. And I am
thinking of all of you who voted in important elections, and of the
democratic handover of power in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
Many people are now watching with curiosity and with hope a new
Federal Government that has set itself ambitious goals in the service of
Above all, however, I am thinking of the commitment shown by
volunteers in all corners of our society. So much is done in the
background, day in, day out; so many people are rolling up their sleeves
and helping as a matter of course. Day by day they all weave the
network which makes up the positive fabric of our society and holds it
Yes, and then there is COVID–19. Soon, it will be two years since
the pandemic began to dominate our lives – here and across the world.
Rarely have we felt so directly the vulnerability of our human life and
the unpredictability of the future – the next month, the next week,
indeed even the next day. Just now, once again, we face greater
restrictions in order to protect ourselves against a new variant of the
Yet we have also learned that we are not powerless. We can protect
ourselves and others. I am glad that the vast majority have recognised
the potential that the vaccination holds. How much great suffering, how
many deaths has it prevented up to this point!
Seldom has our state had such a responsibility to protect its
people’s health and lives. To do justice to this responsibility it needs the
expert scientists, the doctors and nurses, responsible law enforcement
officers and employees in the public authorities. They are all doing their
best. And they are all gaining new knowledge, correcting assumptions
that have proven false, and adapting measures. People can make
mistakes, but they also learn.
So the state has an obligation and must act, but not only the state.
The state cannot put on protective masks in our place, nor can it get the
vaccination on our behalf. No, it is up to each and every one of us to do
I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart the vast, often
silent, majority in our country who have been acting cautiously and
responsibly for months now. Because they have realised that more than
ever before, we are dependent on each other – I on others, and others
Of course there are disputes here. Of course there are
uncertainties and fears, and it is important to address them. In our
country no one is prevented from doing so. The crucial thing is how we
talk about these issues – in our families, with our friends, in public. We
sense that after two years frustration is growing; irritability is
widespread; we are increasingly seeing alienation and, regrettably, open
aggression. It is true that in a democracy we do not all have to be of the
same opinion. But I appeal to you to remember this: we are one country.
When the pandemic is over, we need still to be able to look one another
in the eye. And when the pandemic is over, we still want to live with
The pandemic is not going to come to a sudden end. It will keep
us occupied for a long time yet. And it is already changing us, even
leaving its mark on our day–to–day language. Not only have we had to
become familiar with new terms – like “incidence” or “2G+”. No, our
precious old words, too, are taking on an urgent new quality.
What is the meaning of trust, for example? Not blind trust,
obviously. But could it perhaps mean also relying on competent advice,
even if my own doubts have not been entirely dispelled?
What is the meaning of freedom? Is freedom a loud protestation
against each and every regulation? Or does it not sometimes also mean
that I place restrictions on myself in order to safeguard the freedom of
What is the meaning of responsibility? Do we simply say: “That is
something people have to decide for themselves”? Is it not true to say
that my decision in fact affects many other people as well?
Freedom, trust, responsibility: what they mean is something on
which we will have to reach agreement – again in the future too, and
also on other major issues such as climate change mitigation. Here, too,
there will be no one single correct answer that persuades everyone.
Rather, we will have to reach agreement anew, again and again. And I
am certain that we can reach agreement. After all, we have already
proven often that we can do so.
My fellow Germans, it was at Christmas more than 50 years ago
that people first orbited the moon. The older ones among us may
perhaps remember the images: up there in space, at that moment of
the greatest human advance, our small, vulnerable Earth was visible as
never before. That was where all the progress had begun, and it is here
that we all live, with our burdens and hopes, with our sorrow and with
On that occasion, the three Apollo 8 astronauts read out the
beginning of the Biblical story of creation – and they concluded their
Christmas message with the words “God bless all of you on the good
My fellow Germans, that is the wish my wife and I have for you
and for us: that it will continue to be the good Earth for all of us, that
there will be a good future for all of us. Happy Christmas! (bundespraesident.de)