CONTRIBUTED BY SARAH FORTE
12 Days of German Christmas: Day 5
Perhaps you’ve seen them in your neighbors’ windows this winter. They are wooden arches with a set of candles marching across the top of the arch. Inside the arch are silhouettes of different figures. They might be sledding, cutting an evergreen tree or building a snowman. These are Schwibbogen or candle arches.
The first Schwibbogen were made in Saxony German around 1740. This was a mining region and the first arches were made of the ore mined in the area instead of the wood they are made of now. Imagine an arched entrance to a mine, with the lanterns hung around the entrance by the minors who are on their last shift before Christmas. It’s not hard to see where the design came from!
Over the years, the Schwibbogen have taken many forms. Today you will find some still lit with candles, but many with electric lights instead. Wooden arches have replaced those made of ore. If you can imagine a scene for the middle, they have probably made one in some shape or form.
The word Schwibbogen literally means floating arch and comes from an architectural element. During the dark evenings and nights of German December, these floating arches add light and warmth.
One popular German figure that often finds his way into a Schwibbogen is St. Nicholas. We’ll tell you more about him tomorrow.