Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Christmas Wonderland

The Erzgebirge is known the world over as “The Christmas Wonderland”. This region in the South-East of Germany, bordering the Czech Republic, is the home of a one-off woodcraft tradition of international renown. And it is also the home of Wendt & Kühn. Today I will make a journey with you through the rich heritage of a region that bears the treasures of the earth in its name and values its traditions with customs that endure to the present day.

The ore (“Erz” in German) that lay hidden in the depths of this region gave the mountain range its name. Iron and tin, copper and cobalt, and above all precious silver brought prosperity
and prestige to the region. The miner as a symbolic figure is deeply rooted in Erzgebirge culture. In folk art, he is often accompanied by an angel. She represents the faithful loving wife of the miner who day after day waits for him to return home from the deep, dark tunnels of the mine, greeting him with a bright light – his ray of hope, in the truest sense of the word. To this day, the people of the region have a tradition of placing Miners and Angels in their windows during the Christmas period – just as many Angels as there are girls in the house and as many Miners as there are boys.


The mining tradition of the Erzgebirge has produced numerous customs still treasured by young and old to this day, including miners’ parades and “Hutzenabende” – cozy pre-Christmas evenings spent singing, lace-making and wood-carving –, special dishes and festivals, and handcrafted items that are made nowhere else in the world. As a matter of fact, most of these traditions are brought to life in the magical time around Christmas – the reason being, as legend has it, the proverbial longing of the miner for the light.

Grete Wendt, one of the founders of Wendt & Kühn, was familiar with these customs, too – after all, she had grown up in Grünhainichen, a well-known village in the Erzgebirge. From here, large wholesalers sold folk art to the rest of the world, and the vocational school where Grete Wendt’s father Albert was the principal imparted craftsmanship and cultural traditions to its students. Furnished with this special knowledge and exceptional artistic skills, she was able to integrate traditional folk art into her designs and at the same time to develop them further and raise them to a new and hitherto unprecedented level.

The Erzgebirge is famous around the globe for its singular folk art – absolutely unique to this region. When it became clear that the reserves of ore were coming to an end, many people in the Erzgebirge turned to the woodworking skills they had acquired through working in the mining industry. Toy making became an important source of income in the region. Whole toy-making villages grew up, of which Seiffen remains one of the most important to this day. So it is not without reason that Wendt & Kühn chose to set up their splendid showroom and sales gallery, the Wendt & Kühn World of Figures, in Seiffen – after all, it is here that the heart of Erzgebirge folk art still beats strongly to this day.

Hundreds of craftsmen and women in the Erzgebirge are continuing these ancient skills and giving them new life, carrying traditions into the future. The technical expertise that the inhabitants of the Erzgebirge had cultivated for hundreds of years was transferred to the production of wooden figurines. Just as it is still being manufactured at Wendt & Kühn today.

Would you like to read more about Christmas Markets, miner’s parades and miner’s churches? You can read about this in the issue of the eleven dot post 2017/2018, Wendt & Kuehn's customer magazine. And there are much more stories to discover:

If you like the customer magazine of Wendt & Kühn, you can subscribe to it for free. You can get a yearly magazine sent to your home:  
Make sure when you subscribe you select the US version unless you are fluent in German.

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Friday, December 7, 2018

Family Car Travel Tips

As most of you know, we love to travel. We  enjoy road trips as a family. It’s a great way to see the country and it’s usually cheaper than flying. As someone who has traveled a lot, I love helping parents make car trips easier. I haven’t shared any road trip tips in a while and I have some new ones for you. 

Make a car sick kit. Have a package of wipes, paper towels, mouthwash, plastic bags, mints, and motion sickness medicine. 

Bring window markers for your kids to draw on the windows. It wipes off with water. They are lighter than normal markers so they won’t obstruct your view. 

Make car coupons that they can earn for good behavior. You don’t have to make the rewards anything extravagant. It could  be as simple as a candy bar or picking where you eat lunch. 

Use an empty DVD case for a travel drawing kit. Put in paper, colored pencils and stickers. You can use it as a hard surface too. If you need something bigger use a clipboard. 

Make a car grab bag. Go to the dollar store and get some little toys that your children would like and wrap them in different wrapping paper. Decide how often they get to pick a prize. It will give them something to look forward to. 

Play games that don’t require any pieces. Noah loves would you rather. You have to watch him or he will say things like would you rather walk on Legos or coal? When you obviously say Legos and ask him. He will say who said the coals were hot. 

Give your kids each a cheap camera to take photos on your road trip. Noah is amazing at photography. This way they have the freedom to decide what they want to take photos of. 

You can download movies or tv shows from Netflix and watch them in the car. You don’t need WiFi or cellular service to watch them. That’s a great way to entertain them when they start to get restless. 

Origami is huge in our house. Buy some origami paper and let them go to work. Noah will use any kind of paper to make origami. He often uses placemats at restaurants to make something. 

Let them make music. There’s music making apps like Garage Band that your child can use. Just go to the dollar store and pick up some ear buds. 

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Driving around looking at Christmas lights

One of my favorite things to do in December is to get in the car and look at everyone’s holiday decorations. We do this every year. There’s a huge light display at our local farm equipment store every year. We started going when Noah was a baby. We enjoy seeing all the amazing lights every year. I can’t even explain how cool it is. It’s something you just have to see. There’s ice skaters, farm equipment in lights, and the Grinch even makes an appearance. 

You can make it a whole event. There are so many people who decorate their homes, so there’s plenty to look at. I know that the holidays are an expensive time, so the fact that it’s a free activity is great. Here’s some tips to make looking at Christmas lights extra special. 

Go in your pajamas. Bonus points if they all match. Make sure everyone wears shoes though just in case. 

Bring blankets and pillows to make it extra cozy. Don’t forget the stuffed animals! 

Bring hot chocolate and cookies to enjoy on your drive. 

Map out your route. There might even be a big light display you can visit. Look for neighborhoods as many people decorate. 

Rate the lights. You can all decide which decorations you like best. Talk about what you each like about each house. 

Play your favorite Holiday music. Most music streaming apps have holiday playlists. You can even create your own playlist with songs that are special to your family.  

Carol in the car. Sing a few songs together. You can sing rounds, make animal noises or sound effects, and make up new lyrics. 

Leave the technology at home. It can be distracting. You can miss out on things when you are staring at a screen. Focus on the lights and being with your family. 

Make a new tradition and enjoy it every year!