Tradition is not about worshipping ashes, it’s about handing on the flame. Whoever made this wise observation must have been to the Erzgebirge before they made it. And why do we think that? Find out for yourself!
You may have already seen Schwibbogen candle holders lighting up the dark. But do you know what this traditional Christmas decoration is meant to remind us of? Why (candle)light has always played such an important role in the Erzgebirge? Why the Erzgebirge became a centre for Christmas decorations and toys in the first place? And what a Mettenschicht is? No? Then head off on into the Erzgebirge on a journey of discovery, where the traditional Christmas combination of angels and miners represents the world above and below ground. Experience the love and energy that people here continue to put into their time-honoured traditions, keeping deep-rooted customs alive. You’ll see that here, too, everything comes from mining.
The mining parades at Christmas and during annual festivals are still the highlights of the year in the Erzgebirge, just as they always have been – with shiny instruments, uniforms with full regalia, proud miners’ marches and wholehearted singing. And if you asked all the incense burner figurines and nutcrackers in the traditional family-run wood workshops whether it was Christmas yet, they would certainly answer ‘yes’, at any time of year. All that remains is to attend a Mettenschicht, as the last shift before Christmas Eve was called, in one of the visitors’ mines. Want to bet that even years later, the Schwibbogen candle holder you’ve brought along will still remind you of the lit archway at the entrance to the mine? All while a pair of angel and miner figurines illuminate the room, keeping careful watch over all the people ... these are Christmas traditions to warm the heart. Glück Auf!
The angel and miner candle holders are some of the most original motifs in Erzgebirge folk art. They’re a compact and symbolic representation of what occupied and preoccupied the miners and their families most of all – the extremely difficult, strenuous and dangerous work underground, which usually started before daybreak and only ended after dark. In the form of candle holders, the angel and the miner firstly provided the light that was so greatly missed – illuminating the miners’ way home after work. At the same time, they were a symbol of protection that was intended to bring the miners luck: the angels represented the protective power of heaven, and the miners the men who risked their lives and their health in the adits day after day. Together, they were a plea for God’s protection. Today, it is still customary in the Erzgebirge to give daughters an angel candle holder at Christmas, while sons receive a candle holder in the shape of a miner.
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