"You will be home before the leaves fall from the trees" Kaiser Wilhelm assured his troops departing for the front in 1914. But French resistance at the Marne River in the first days of September blocked von Schlieffen's plan to envelop Paris, and what had been anticipated as a short war of attack and advance became, bogged in trenches, a lengthy world conflict of position and attrition. The ordeal was supposed to be over by Christmas -- "Home for the Holidays' -- or so the Germans thought as they had marched off to the front. Few recruits would have imagined that they would be sending the Christmas and New Year's greetings pictured here. And when the holidays came and passed, still fewer could have imagined that the war would drag on for another four years.
The Christ child in the Christmas scene on Card 24 is not held by his mother: in a remarkable twist of the Madonna and Child motif familiar through centuries of art history, the baby Jesus is held in the arms of a massive image of Saint George -- patron saint of soldiers -- towering above the nightscape in polished armor.