Christmas Pyramids: A 300 year old Tradition
Before the grand Tannenbaum, there was the Weinachts
pyramide, or lightstock. This holiday tradition can
be traced to Dresden, the largest city in the Erzibirge
region of Germany, where in 1168 AD silver and tin were
discovered. Hundreds of miners flocked to the Ore Mountains
to make their fortunes. But foreign competition and
warfare resulted in many miners losing their jobs. To
compensate, many took up woodcarving, incorporating
mining symbols and religious elements into their designs.
Thus a reputation for intricate woodwork was established
in the region.
In the middle ages Christians began associating the
evergreen with Christmas, borrowing the symbol from
the pagan winter solstice celebration. Bringing trees
into their homes, villagers hung fruit and cookies from
the branches to symbolize the fruits of redemption.
At the same time, woodcarvers in the Erzebirge region
fashioned the first lightstock, a pyramid-shaped stand
made from 2-5 wooden rods and 3 shelves holding candles
and Christmas-related figurines. Eventually someone
thought to attach a pinwheel to the top of the central
rod. The heat from the candles rose, rotating the pinwheel
and the shelves. Small lightstocks (average pyramids
stand about 50 cm) were placed beside Christmas trees
in some homes, although many poor woodcarvers could
not afford trees, and thus the lightstock came to be
known as the “poor man’s Christmas tree.” Unlike the
glass ornaments of Lausche, the lightstock was not originally
made to satisfy customer demand, but was established
first as a genuine folk tradition. Other seasonal objects
fashioned by the woodcarvers of the Erzibirge region
include schwiboggen, an arch-shaped candle holder that
lights the windows during Advent; rauchermann, a wooden
ornament shaped like a smoking man with a hollowed out
mouth where incense is burned; and the popular nutcracker,
inspired by the storybook on which Tchaikovsky’s ballet
Originally the candle-lit pyramid was
a symbol for light, a prayer for the miners to return
safely home from the danger of the mines. As it became
associated with Christmas, the candles on the lightstock
came to represent Christ, who is the light of the world.
Lightstocks gained popularity in Dresden and the surrounding
villages, and multi-storied pyramids began appearing
in town markets, as villagers competed for the best
town pyramid. Lightstock shelves were filled with scenes
illustrating their village’s history, the story of Christmas,
or other holiday themes. This tradition continues on
today, and the world’s tallest pyramid stands in the
Striezelmarkt in Dresden.
The Christmas tree tradition was not accepted by Americans
until much later, brought by Hessian soldiers fighting
in the Revolutionary War and later by German immigrants.
But it is said that in 1747 in a church colony in Bethlehem,
Pennsylvania, German settlers displayed wooden pyramids
covered with evergreen branches and decorated with candles.
Lightstocks are available today in a wide variety of
shapes and sizes, and are the continuation of a tradition
over 300 years old.
About the Author:
Emma Snow is a creator at for Ornament Shop http://www.ornament-shop.net
and Craft Kits http://www.craft-kits.net
leading portals for crafts and ornaments.