On a past visit to Germany, we were intrigued by an unusual Christmas decoration.
Small multicoloured parachutes with a gift suspended below each seemed to be a key part of festive displays – especially in the eastern areas of Berlin.
Asked about the meaning of the decoration, Berliners told us a fascinating story that harked back to the Soviet blockade of the city during the Cold War.
Apparently, a young American pilot, who was airlifting supplies into blockaded Berlin, was touched by the plight of local children and started to drop candy from his plane as it descended to land.
Fashioning small parachutes, he and his crew sent them floating down as they approached the Berlin airport, wiggling the wings of their plane as a signal to the children that their anticipated cargo would soon arrive.
Uncle Wiggly Wings
The pilot became known by thousands of children in Berlin as “Uncle Wiggly Wings” or “The Candy Bomber.”
Word soon spread, and donations of candy and other supplies poured in from sympathetic Americans.
In this way, a small idea became a great symbol of hope not only to German children in a bombed-out city, but to all those who yearned for freedom.
And that inspiring story also spawned a range of gifts and one of the world’s more unusual Christmas traditions
This black and white photograph, which is in the public domain, shows a U.S. Air Force Douglas C-54 Skymaster making a candy drop (note the parachutes below the tail of the C-54) in about 1948.