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:

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