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Weihnachtspyramiden

Listed under Original Gifts in Bavaria, Germany.

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Photo by flickr user Kelly Sue
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The art of the deliciously kitsch is perfected at the all-year-round Christmas shop, Käthe Wohlfahrt, in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, where all of Germany's seasonal products can be found under one roof.

Traditionally a time for children, Christmas in Germany involves all kinds of bewitching toys and ornaments, but the Weihnachtspyramide is one of the most fascinating and has a history lesson behind it, too.

It was in Mediaeval times that families began to bring evergreen branches into their homes at Christmas, and in Germany and the rest of Northern Europe they would arrange them, stalks upwards, in the shape of a pyramid and decorate them with candles to bring Christmas cheer to the winter days.

The ore mountains in Eastern Germany were full of prolific tin and silver mines, so whereas in other areas of Europe the tradition grew into that of the Christmas tree, the mining communities in the mountains added the spinning capstan mining mechanism to their evergreen pyramids and created the Weihnachtspyramiden. Wood carving was a secondary industry at the time, but as the mines were eventually exhausted, it took over and the Ore Mountains are now famous for their wood carvings, which are exported worldwide.

The Weihnachtspyramide is built in several circular layers which revolve around a spindle, and is topped with a wooden propeller, which is moved around by the rising heat from a circle of candles at the bottom, so causing the layers to spin in turn. The oldest Christmas pyramids were intricately decorated with tiny figures of miners engaged in their work; different depths of the mine were represented by the different revolving levels - hours of entertainment which could well have rivalled Christmas TV. The idea was gradually developed to include figures from the Christmas story, woodland animals, Santa Claus and his reindeer and many others.

Käthe Wohlfahrt offers a number of Weihnachtspyramiden made in their workshop, as well as a huge, awsomely detailed five-tier piece.

Available online here.

Written by  larapiegeler.

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