The Erzgebirge region of Germany is known for its ornamental arts, legacy.
The selection of excellent items is extensive, but as Hardy Graupner discovered, arched German candle Carousel holders are unique in their own right.
A group of tourists in Johanngeorgenstadt Saxony, Germany, is filming a gigantic ornamental structure in the city center, focusing on the various complex sculptures depicted beneath a massive steel arch.
It’s still daylight, but it’s simple to imagine that when night falls and the electrical candles on the building are lit, the square will be bathed, in a warm and inviting light.
There isn’t much else associated with this city.
It’s a winter sports activity, resort a stone’s throw from the Czech Republic, but it’s most famous for being the birthplace of the Erzgebirge’s arching candle holders, known in German as Schwibbogen.
And to refresh everyone’s memory, Johanngeorgenstadt is home to the world’s largest candle holder.
On this chilly December day, the tourists gathered around it look to be very taken aback.
After all, the structure is 25 meters (82 feet) in length and stands 14.5 meters tall.
A set of big electrical candles are positioned across the large arch, lighting up various mining-related figures.
“I’ve been here before,” one of the many visitors remarks.
“However, every time I visit, it appears like the candle holder has grown even taller.”
His close pal concurs.
“If you stand right next to it, it makes you feel so small,” she explains.
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A long-standing tradition
Although the number of visitors has decreased dramatically since the fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic struck the hotel industry, Germans’ love for arched candle holders has remained intact.
Almost everyone in the Erzgebirge region, and many beyond it, has a must-have Christmas ornament. It is usually displayed on a windowsill at home to the delight of passers-by.
“Arched candle holders characterize the Erzgebirge region’s image like none of our other products,” Frederic Günther, president of the Area Association of Artisans and Toymakers, tells DW.
“They’re visible in the windows to everyone.”
They are, without a doubt, advocates for our region and its products.”
The origin of the word is still a point of contention.
But where did they come from, and how long have they been in the neighborhood?
Tom Pote, a hobby woodcarver from Johanngeorgenstadt who is fascinated by his city’s history, has one theory.
“The first arching candleholder was constructed in 1740 by a blacksmith named Johann Teller here in Johanngeorgenstadt,” he tells DW.
“It was his way of thanking the miners for whom he’d been laboring.”
Such candle holders have been created in this town ever since.”
But it’s unknown what inspired the arching candle holders’ design.
“If you ask around about what the original arched candleholders were supposed to represent, over 80% of people will believe the arch was designed, after a mining tunnel entrance,” Pote explains.
Nonetheless, he believes the shape, was inspired by the arches of Johanngeorgenstadt’s old church, which was later destroyed, by a massive fire.
Pote thinks that the creator of the 1740 candle holder must have visited that church and must have been struck by the arches there.
Igor Janzen of the Dresden Museum of Saxon Folk Art has another model of what the arching candle holder could have been based on.
He dates it to 1719, when Augustus the Strong’s son, Elector Frederick Augustus, married the Austrian emperor’s daughter.
Many people, including miners from the Erzgebirge region, we’re treated to operas, masquerades, and all the other trappings of a late baroque competition during a joyous celebration that lasted several weeks.
They also spotted edifices erected for a massive parade, including arches that would have served as a model for the torch holders.
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Does metal compare to wood?
Steel has been used to make well-known Christmas decorations for decades.
“They only started creating arched candle holders out of wood in the 1940s,” Pote adds, “and with it came a plethora of varied themes and images.”
“They sell better since they’re usually cheaper, but both the wooden and premium steel versions are available.”
The carved wood candle holders appear nice on the windowsill, but the steel candle holders are preferable outside because they don’t corrode.”
Consider picket nutcrackers are among the many woodcarving decorations from the Erzgebirge region that sell like hot muffins overseas.
It’s a little different with arched candle holders, though.
Most of the “Arched candle holders are created for the German market,” the Association of Artisans and Toymakers’ Frederic Günther points out.
“There are some technical challenges to consider in terms of the outside market, such as different voltage in Germany and the US. Therefore not every model is available for both countries.”
He claims that potential visitors from the United States should be informed that different light bulbs are required, for the candle holders.
The aftermath of a pandemic
Producers and dealers are keeping a close eye on home demand during the coronavirus outbreak.
“Producers who have strong collectors’ products do well online and are unaffected by the limits.”
“However, the continued pandemic is a significant challenge for shops with brick-and-mortar stores since tourists stay away,” Günther argues.
“And don’t forget that most German Christmas markets, were canceled at the last minute this year.”
Many traders had already set up shop to discover that the markets would not be allowed to open and that no one would compensate them for their losses.”