Christmas Market Tour 2022: Herrnhut

The Moravian Star- a geometric series of circles and pyramids that point outwards. The Moravian star has a double-meaning: 1. It represents a symbol of hope for the people who fled to find new land and practice their religion. 2. It represents the Star of Bethlehem, a guiding star which led many to see the birth of Baby Jesus.

The yellow, orange, red and white colored stars can be found at the doors of many homes, churches and shops in Germany, yet the origin of the star comes from a small town in the Lusatia region in eastern Saxony, and this is where our last stop in this year’s market tour takes us.

Located 12 kilometers north of Zittau, Herrnhut has a population of 5700 inhabitants and represents a typical rural town in the Lusatia region. The town has a church, a few businesses and residential houses, many of them lined up along the main highway going through the town. Yet at the corner of Oderwitzer Strasse and Löbauer Strasse one will find one of two places where these wonderful colorful stars come from.

We don’t know who was behind the creation of the Moravian Star, yet there are two factors we need to keep in mind. The first one was that the star originated in this region, which was once known as Moravia. Consisting of the eastern part of Saxony and the western parts of Czechia and Poland, Moravia was once an independent state having belonged to the Bohemian kingdom before it was conquered by the Austria-Hungarian Empire. After World War I, the region was cut up with the creation of the present-day eastern border along the Oder-Neisse River. To the east, the lands belonged to Czechoslovakia, to the west to Germany. The boundary remains the same to this day.

According to the sources, students at a boarding school in Niesky and Kleinwelke (near Bautzen) created these stars that were used for the Day of Epiphany on January 6th. These stars would be found on pine trees and along the halls. The stars would make their way to Herrnhut, which had a special meaning. It was founded in 1457 by Jan Hus, who created the Moravian Church. The town consisted mainly of residents who were fleeing persecution from out east. The name Herrnhut consists of the name “Lord’s Hut.” Herrnhut would eventually become the hub for the production of the Moravian Stars.

The creation of the star dates as far back as the 18th Century, though the mastermind behind it remains to be open. We know that Pieter Hendrik Verbeek established the star business in 1894. At first it was a paper shop where one had an opportunity to create these stars using geometric shapes, like cones and pyramids, placed on a round circle. This easy concept became a hit and after a century, the business expanded with the construction of its modern plant, located only a kilometer away from the store along Oderwitzer Strasse, just as you pass underneath the railroad bridge. Both facilities we visited during our visit, the modern company has a nice small but beautiful Christmas market. And as we had an opportunity to make a Moravian star, we took that chance as well.

The original company represents a typical style of architecture that was typical for the region during that time. Geometric shaped building with decorative features on the facade and a large bay window. But every square centimeter contains several colors of the Moravian star on the outside. One cannot miss the building when driving past there. There, one can buy the Moravian star regardless of color either individually or as a string of lights. The shop also sells artwork featuring the star, like in the example picture above. Ceramics handmade and originally from the region can be found at the shop, together with some literature on the history of Herrnhut, the star itself and the Lusatia region.

Yet the biggest attraction was at the modern facility just a kilometer away at the railroad bridge. The facility is twice as big as the original and features a restaurant, theater and gallery where a person can learn about the Moravian star and the Herrnhut Company, and lastly, a workshop where you can build your own star. One can also watch the workers assemble the Moravian stars on display, using the techniques that were practiced by the students at the boarding schools. The Herrnhut Star Company is one of a very few numbers of companies in Germany where the products are handmade and not with a machine. And by watching the assemblers construct the stars, that is unique in itself.

As it was Christmas time, there was a Christmas market at the entrance to the facility with over a dozen huts, colored in light brown and decorated with Moravian stars. They sold many local goods and provided food and hot beverages to those who enjoyed the winter outdoors and wanted that Christmas feeling.

Overall the market and the modern company as well as the original shop are well visited from our observation when we were there. While the original shop was at times crowded with dozens of people shopping for the right star as a Christmas gift, the market and the modern facility was spacious and one could get an opportunity to shop for or even build a star of their choice. To accommodate the visitors, a large parking lot across the street was made available to alleviate the congestion and the frustration.

To sum up, if you are looking for a true star that represents the true meaning of Christmas, then Herrnhut is the place to get the original. The star and it’s geometric forms of cones and pyramids on a circle originated from this region yet it was the work of Verbeek with the creation of the Herrnhut Company that made the town the birth place of the signature star. While many companies have tried to mimick the product, nothing will outclass the handmade production of these unique stars which has become a popular decoration either on the Christmas tree or as a work of art at home and elsewhere.

And at a place like Herrnhut, originality rules. ✴️😊🎄

You can see more pictures of Herrnhut just by clicking on the link below:



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