CHRISTMAS PYRAMIDS  from the German Christmas shop

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The German Christmas Shop

For the best in handmade crafts from Germany, Nutcrackers, Smoky Men, Candle Arches, Candle Holders, Music Boxes, Christmas Tree Decorations, Cribs, Nativities and much more...

History Continued

The starting point may have been the rigid frame where the miner put in a spindle instead of the immovable bar of wood in the middle. That spindle was placed down on a hard bottom (glass) and on its top were a wheel of wings. Due to the increasing warm air produced by the candles which were fixed on the frame, the wings and the spindle with plates started to spin around.

Nobody knows the time or the place of using the first spindle. But it is a fact that only the combination of a frame, a spindle, and a wheel of wings produced the genuine turning pyramid of the Erzgebirge moun­tains.

Mechanical models of mines and horse powered gins influenced the further development of the pyramids. Scenes of mining shown on tiers came into the technique of the pyramids. The speciality of the models with a horse powered gin in it was a frame like a pyramid with a movable central axis as a vertical spindle. For example, the common pyramids, the pyramid made from bars, the pyramid having some tiers and the pyramid showing a horse powered gin.

Pyramids made from bars of wood are the oldest and most simple ones. Their simplicity and clearness of the design presents all figurines on the plates excellently. Their construction has been modelled up to the present day.

Pyramids with tiers looking like a building are characterized by closed rooms on every level. Connected by arbors standing vertically, the tier lies on top of the other progressively narrowing. The rotary plates on each level have different possibilities for developing. This kind of pyramid has become the most common in the Erzgebirge mountains.

The pyramids showing a horse powered gin are copies of the imposing construction of frames in mining. They show the miner's work and life for the most part and keep the character of mining.

Tower pyramids are a special kind of pyramid. They are also known as "rotary towers". As true to life reproductions, they show the variety of the manu­facturing of pyramids. The best example for showing that is the copy of the well known church in the town of Seiffen. It is a tower pyramid, showing people on their way to Midnight Service on Christmas Eve.

The development of Christmas pyramids shows a great variety of design, scenes, figurines and equipment. The construction of the pyramids have their basis in four-, six-, or eight cornered frames with turned or carved main pillars. The equipment is showing copies of the situation of every day life in villages, jobs of mining, scenes of Christian history, fairy tales and toys. The figurines used for that are turned on the lathe or carved, sometimes they are made of a special mixture of bread dough.

Until the 20th century, pyramids had only been unique items. As a family's heritage, the pyramids have been treasured till now and have been put in the living room at Christmas. As Professor Alwin Seifert described in 1920:

"As soon as the native from the Erzgebirge mountains had his own home and had been expecting his first child he was starting to create his pyramid. There was no early bedtime in the weeks before Christmas Eve. Till very late at night one could see the bright shining windows thick with snow. When the mother holding the baby in her arms was standing in front of the little marvel and the candlelight was in both their eyes or the little child was holding out his arms to the blaze of lights, then the creator had been repaid a thousand times for his effort and work."

The unique pyramids made in the families had been the only function to decorate the room for Christmas.

Becoming more popular and having increasing needs, the production of pyramids was started professionally. The first main producer had been the wood processing factory of Carl Ludwig Flemming in Globenstein since 1902. It was followed by more producers of pyramids a little later. But only two decades later, the toy maker, Bruno Henning (1886­1930), produced pyramids in series in the Seiffen region. Henning produced pyramids with tiers in four sizes, from 23 cm to 100 cm. It can be proved that he supplied ninety pieces to a wholesaler in Seiffen in 1923. The hexagonal ground plan of the tiers is supported by filigree turned pillars which are connected by arched pieces. The tiers are surrounded by little fences. The pyramids have wooden figurines displaying the Christian story which the popular artist Karl Milller (1879-1958) from Seiffen supplied. This type of pyramid being delicate in style, colourful, and valuable in its mechanics has been precious objects of the manufacturing of pyramids in Seiffen up to the present day.

Many years ago, pyramids were only used in the livingrooms of homes. But in Frohnau in 1933, in Schwarzenberg in 1934 and in Aue in 1935, big pyramids were put up in the open air. At the same time, the 6.30 m high pyramid of the toy museum in Seiffen was manufactured.

Since approximately 1960, large "pyramids showing to public" have been put up again in the open air.

For nearly over 200 years, the Christmas pyramids have been developing from home made unique pieces, to products made in series. As traditional arts and crafts from the Erzgebirge mountains people from all over the world enjoy them at Christmas.


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