Learn our history
The history of Käthe Wohlfahrt and its artists and craftspeople is a unique one. We invite you to learn more about what makes Käthe Wohlfahrt, and Christmas from Germany, so special.
In 1956, two years after the Soviet Union granted East Germany sovereignty and early in the Cold War, a young couple, Wilhelm and Käthe Wohlfahrt, fled their home in the eastern Erzgebirge region of Germany. They took with them a beautifully carved music box. Playing the beloved German Christmas tune "Silent Night," the family keepsake depicted the Three Wise Men bringing gifts to the Holy Family.
Seven years later, this music box and this couple began what would become the Käthe Wohlfahrt company. When American friends stationed in Germany admired the handcrafted Christmas music box, Wilhelm tried to find one for them. Since the Christmas season had just ended, however, he had no luck. Eventually, he located a wholesaler who had the music box in stock, and Wilhelm was able to give his American friends a late, but much appreciated, Christmas gift.
The Wohlfahrts soon found themselves supplying other admirers with the Christmas music box. They then decided to establish a company that would sell German Christmas items all year long. That company was Käthe Wohlfahrt. In 1977, the first specialty store opened, followed by others, including the now world famous Christmas Village in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany.
The beautiful Tauber River Valley in south-central Germany is home to the world famous Käthe Wohlfahrt workshop. Here, exceptionally talented artists and master craftspeople join efforts to preserve the hand-painting and hand-crafting traditions developed over the centuries by woodworkers from Germany's Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) region.
Using native woods, master wood turners work with lathes to hand turn the many pieces that are then assembled into Käthe Wohlfahrt miniatures, nutcrackers, smokers, Schwibbogens (candle arches), Christmas tree ornaments, music boxes and more. Artists then paint or otherwise finish the pieces, giving them their signature Käthe Wohlfahrt appeal.
In 1990, German artist Gudrun Galler joined the workshop, bringing her unmatched artistic imagination and eye for detail. Designing the masterpieces that make up the Childhood Dreams Limited Editions series, Galler carefully oversees the production of prototypes, expertly painting them using techniques borrowed from porcelain decorating. Once she is sure that the prototypes match her visions for them, German craft shops produce a limited number of Galler's pieces.
The romantic medieval German city of Rothenburg, situated on a plateau above the Tauber River, is home to Käthe Wohlfahrt signature specialty store, the Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Village. Set up as a Franconian village market with a towering 18-foot revolving Christmas tree in its center and a 13-foot nutcracker welcoming guests, the Christmas Village brings to life the vision of its founders, Wilhelm and Käthe Wohlfahrt. Here, people from around the world can shop for exceptional and unique Christmas items all year round and appreciate the fine German craftsmanship that goes into every Käthe Wohlfahrt nutcracker, Schwibbogen (candle arch), ornament, music box, incense smoker and miniature.
In addition to the Rothenburg Christmas Village, Käthe Wohlfahrt has stores throughout Germany (in Bamberg, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Heidelberg, Nürnberg, Oberammergau, and Rüdesheim). In the United States, Käthe Wohlfahrt's only year-round U.S. Christmas specialty store is in picturesque Stillwater, Minnesota, just a short drive from Minneapolis and St. Paul. During the Christmas season, Käthe Wohlfahrt holds Christmas markets in Chicago, Illinois, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Arlington, Texas and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Established by Harald Wohlfahrt, son of Käthe Wohlfahrt founders Wilhelm and Käthe Wohlfahrt, the German Christmas Museum offers visitors glimpses of German Christmas celebrations from the 4th through the 20th century.
Displaying antique ornaments and Christmas decorations made from wax, paper, pewter, glass, cardboard and wood, the museum treats visitors to fascinating historical facts and both religious and secular treasures, such as rare nutcrackers, Schwibbogens (candle arches), advent calendars, pyramids and nativities.
The museum welcomes visitors all year long. For further information, please click here.