Friday, December 21, 2012

Schwibbogen, Christmas Pyramid, and Angel Chimes

A Schwibbogen is a decorative candle-holder from Germany. Associated exclusively with winter and the holiday season, the first Schwibbogen appeared in the 1700s. They were made from black iron ore since they originated in Erzgebirge, or the Ore Mountains in Saxony. They are now often carved in wood and show scenes from pastoral Europe, musicians, angels, or Father Christmas. Modern Schwibbogen come with small electric bulbs eliminating the need for actual candles, and eliminating a fire hazard!

Related to the Schwibbogen and hailing from the same region of Germany is the tradition of the Christmas Pyramid whose origins date back to the Middle Ages. Usually carved or assembled from wood, the Christmas Pyramid is a carousel with several levels and a central driveshaft with a fan at the top. Candles anchored around the periphery of the lower levels provide a heated draft to turn the levels like a carousel.

Above: A carved wooden Christmas Pyramid and Schwibbogen from Germany.

Many cities in Germany now display impressive life-size Christmas Pyramids at Christmas Markets or in town squares. In the photos below, a Christmas Pyramid in Augsburg in the Christmas Market looks festive while a very tall Christmas Pyramid rises above the lighted tree in the Market in Erfurt.

Dating from the late 19th century, Angle Chimes too are associated exclusively with winter and the holiday season. Much like the Christmas Pyramid, the rising heated air from the candles at the base of the structure spin the blades at the top. As the carousel turns, tiny clappers strike the chimes creating a tinkling sound. The first recorded appearance of an Angel Chime was in 1905 when Walter Stock of the German toy firm Adrian &  Stock filed for a patent. The pre-World War II German-made chimes were usually made of tin and featured lithography. After the war, simpler, Swedish-made chimes in brass became popular in both Europe and North America.

Walter Stock's patent drawing from 1905

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