Käthe Wohlfahrt is proud to bring you Christmas from Germany. The many items we offer reflect traditional German handicraft and skill that have flourished in the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) of Germany for well over 200 years. They also capture the spirit of time-honored, beloved German Christmas traditions. Here are just a few:
These well-known symbols of Christmas were first made in the dense forests of Germany's Ore Mountains in the 18th century. Here, wood turners developed lathes based on mining technology. They used these lathes to produce standing wood nutcrackers with large heads, wide jaws and levers on their backs to crack nuts. These early nutcrackers often depicted policemen, soldiers, foresters and miners.
In workshops such as Käthe Wohlfahrt's in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany, skilled craftspeople make modern interpretations of these cherished figures. Käthe Wohlfahrt's exclusive Holzknackl nutcrackers now bring this tradition to homes across the globe. Browse Nutcrackers
In 1856, in a town nestled in Germany's Ore Mountains, Ferdinand Froh and his nephew fashioned the first German incense smoker, a man with a hollow belly and a round, open mouth holding a pipe. An incense cone fit into the belly and, when lit, produced smoke that wafted from the little man's mouth. Soon after, other woodworkers began producing incense smokers, and they became popular figures in many German homes, especially at Christmas.
Unlike early incense smokers whose heads and arms were made from dough, those in Käthe Wohlfahrt's Holzknoddl and Smoky collections are made entirely of wood. Elegant German craftsmanship is a hallmark of these contemporary takes on a cherished German tradition. Browse Incense Smokers
Christmas pyramids were first produced in Germany's Ore Mountains. The mechanism that moved ore from deep in the mine to the earth's surface inspired woodworkers to craft the pyramids spinning carousel. Traditionally, the heat from burning candles moved the pyramid's blades, which caused the carousel and its beautifully carved figures to slowly turn.
Käthe Wohlfahrt artists carry on this tradition, designing, carving and assembling these moving symbols of Christmas. Browse Pyramids
In 1726, Johann Teller, a blacksmith from Johanngeorgenstadt in Germany Ore Mountains, fashioned the first of the arched candleholders that would become known as Schwibbogens. According to legend, Schwibbogens were inspired by a Christmas Eve tradition practiced by local miners: Before their final shift on Christmas Eve, they would hang their lit lanterns around the arched entrance to the mine.
While the first Schwibbogens were wrought from the Ore Mountains black ore, miners soon began carving them from wood, a tradition that continues today by talented artists such as those working in the Käthe Wohlfahrt workshop. As in decades past, people around the world place these lit candle arches on their windowsills during the Christmas season to illuminate the long winter nights. Browse Schwibbogens
The first Christmas tree resembling our own was likely erected in Germany. In fact, the oldest evidence of a decorated tree is from Freiberg, in Germany's Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) region. In 1419, the Society of Baker Servants decorated a tree with fruits, gingerbread, wafers, painted nuts and paper ornaments. Browse Ornaments
Two popular modern Advent traditions, the Advent wreath and the Advent calendar, first began in Germany. What we recognize as the Advent wreath came from Hamburg in the mid-1800s and is credited to the pastor Johann Heinrich Wichert. Working with poor, homeless and orphaned children, Wichert established the tradition of placing candles on a wheel and lighting them, one by one, for the 24 days preceding Christmas. The custom, which was simplified to the lighting of one candle on each of the four Sundays before Christmas, soon became an important part of Advent.
Munich printer Gerhard Lang produced the first printed Advent calendar at the turn of the 20th century. With small flaps that opened to reveal colored pictures, the calendar helped excited children count down the 24 days before Christmas, much as its modern versions do today.