Where Christmas and domed candle holders are inseparable | Business | Economic and financial news from a German perspective | DW
A group of visitors in Johanngeorgenstadt, Saxony, photographs a huge decorative building in the city center and zooms in on the various figures that are depicted under a large metal arch.
It’s the middle of the day, but it’s easy to find out that when night sets in and the candlelight bulbs are glowing on top of the structure, the snow on the ground appears warm.
There isn’t that much that this city is known for. It is a stone’s throw from the Czech Republic. Yes, it is a traditional winter sports resort in Eastern Germany, but most of all it boasts of being the place where the arched candlesticks of the Ore Mountains – known as Schwibbogen – date back to. And to remind everyone of this, Johanngeorgenstadt is home to the largest free-standing specimen in the world.
The visitors who gather around him on this frosty December day seem really impressed. After all, the structure is 25 meters wide and 14.5 meters high. The huge arch holds a series of electric candlesticks that, when lit, illuminate various mining-related figures that stand under the arch.
âI’ve been here before,â says a man, but every time I come here, it seems to me as if the candlestick has grown even bigger. âHis companion agrees. âYou feel so small standing right next to it,â she says. âIt’s undoubtedly impressive considering its size, but probably not the prettiest thing I know,â she adds.
Arched candle holders come in many different shapes and sizes, like here in a shop in Oberwiesenthal, Germany
A deeply rooted tradition
Although the number of tourists here has fallen drastically again in the wake of the fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic in the hospitality industry, the Germans’ passion for arched candlesticks is unbroken.
For almost everyone in the Ore Mountains and for many beyond, they are an indispensable Christmas decoration that is usually on the windowsill of the apartment – to the delight of passers-by.
“Curved candlesticks shape the image of the Ore Mountains like none of our other products,” says the chairman of the National Association of Craftsmen and Toys, Frederic GÃ¼nther, of DW.
âAnyone can see them in the windows, you don’t have to go anywhere to see them. And you can say that the arched chandeliers are ambassadors for our region and our products. “
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas in the Ore Mountains without the arched candlesticks in people’s windows
Continuous debate about the origin
But where do they really come from and how long have they been in the region? Tom Pote, a hobby wood carver from Johanngeorgenstadt who is interested in the history of his town, has a hypothesis.
“The first arched chandelier was made here in Johanngeorgenstadt in 1740 by a blacksmith named Johann Teller,” he told DW. “It was his way of saying ‘thank you’ to the miners he worked for. Since then, candlesticks like this have been made in this town.”
It is interesting that the debate about what exactly inspired the shape of the domed candle holder is far from over.
The city of Gelenau in the Ore Mountains boasts the world’s largest curved candlestick on a building
“If you’re wondering what the original arched candlesticks were supposed to symbolize, about 80% of people will say the arch was modeled after the entrance to a mining gallery,” said Pote. “But it doesn’t really look like it, as a mine tunnel entrance has a different shape on either side.”
Pote believes that the shape of the candlesticks is modeled on the arches of the old church of Johanngeorgenstadt, which was later gutted in a major fire. The maker of the 1740 candlestick undoubtedly went to this church and must have felt inspired by the arches there, Pote points out.
Igor Jenzen from the Museum of Saxon Folk Art in Dresden recently added another version of the creation of the arched chandelier. He points to 1719 when Elector Friedrich August, the son of Augustus the Strong, married the Austrian Emperor’s daughter Maria Josepha in Dresden. In a festive event lasting several weeks, many people, including miners from the Ore Mountains, were offered operas, masquerades and all the other insignia of a late baroque festival. There they also discovered buildings erected for a large move with arches that – as Jenzen claims – could serve as a blueprint for the candlesticks.
Double-sided curved candle holders as shown in the picture give the structures a 3D look
Metal vs. wood
Nobody will know for sure which version is the right one, but the fact is that this Christmas decoration was made of metal for centuries.
âIt wasn’t until the 1940s that the manufacture of curved wooden candlesticks began, and with that came a multitude of different motifs and scenes,â says Pote. “They sell better because they’re usually cheaper, but both the wood and stainless steel versions go side by side. The carved items look better on the windowsill, while the stainless steel candlesticks are better outside because they won’t rust.”
There are many wood-carving decorations from the Ore Mountains that sell like hot cakes abroad, including the wooden nutcrackers and incense figures. With curved candle holders, however, this is a little different.
“Curved candlesticks are mainly produced for the German market,” emphasizes Frederic GÃ¼nther from the Association of Craftsmen and Toy Manufacturers.
“For the overseas market, there are some technical aspects to consider with regard to different grid voltage parameters, for example in Germany and the USA, so that not every model is available for both markets.”
He adds that potential U.S. buyers visiting the area should be advised that they will also need other lightbulbs for the candlesticks.
The pandemic affected the business of local producers and retailers – 2021 is not much different
Domestic demand is being closely monitored by both manufacturers and retailers during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Manufacturers with strong collectibles do good business online and are hardly affected by the restrictions caused by the coronavirus. But the ongoing pandemic is a huge problem for retailers with stationary shops, as tourists stay away,” said GÃ¼nther.
“And let’s not forget that most of the Christmas markets this year were canceled at short notice. Many traders had already set up their stands only to find that the markets were not allowed to take place and that no one would reimburse them for their losses.”
Edited by: T. Rooks