German Christmas Ornaments

The Erzgebrige is one of the most famous Christmas regions

Christmas Tree in Living Room
Germany has its special Christmas decoration. H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock-Archive

What are all those things that you see for sale at the Christmas market? In today's article, you'll get to know more about German Christmas ornaments and what they mean.

Erzgebirge Decorations

Although Christmas is a magical spectacle anywhere in Germany, one of its most famous Christmas regions is the "Erzgebirge" ("the ore mountains") located in Saxony close to the Czech border. Most of the decorations in this article were invented in this region, so that the name now stands for the best and most beautiful Christmas decorations available in Germany.  

Decorations for Advent

In Germany, the season leading up to Christmas starts with "erster Advent" (1st Advent Sunday). This is the fourth Sunday before Christmas and is welcomed with the wonderful song "Wir sagen euch an den lieben Advent".


The "Adventskranz" (advent wreath) consists of an evergreen wreath and four candles. Every Sunday in advent, a new candle is lit and the wreath marks the passage of time and approach of Christmas in this way.


German households rarely miss out on their chance to bring in an "Adventskalender" (advent calendar). Most of us know these products as commercial, chocolate-filled cardboard boxes, but in Germany it's also customary for parents or couples to surprise each other with "gebastelte" (home-crafted) calendars made up of a small surprise for every single day. If you want to get involved with a slice of German christmas, "Adventskalender basteln" is a wonderful start.

Note that a real German advent calendar will not include a compartment for 25 December, because the main event of Christmas in Germany is celebrated on Christmas eve (Heiligabend). This is when the presents are exchanged, relegating "1. Weihnachtstag" (Christmas Day) to a lower level of significance.

The beginning of advent also marks the right time to start the Christmas countdown. It's time to dig out the following ornaments:


The "Schwibbbogen" is a traditional candle arch to be displayed in a home's window at Christmas time. The design is always round, indicating that it is a "Bogen" (bow). The word "Schwib-" originates from the German verb "schweben" (to float), because the candles are arranged to float on top of the bow. 

Weihnachtspyramide (Christmas Pyramid) 

This "Erzgebirge" design is one of my Christmas decoration favourites. The traditional Christmas pyramid uses Physics to create magic. The bottom of the pyramid features candleholders arranged in a circular pattern, and at the top you can find a wind-operated fan. As the candles heat up the air, it rises to the fan and starts to move its little wings. The result is a gentle spinning motion, creating a sense of calm and magic in any room.

The Christmas pyramid was allegedly conceived by poorer households who could not afford Christmas trees. Today it is an integral part of German Christmas anywhere.

Räuchermann (Smoker)

These incense burners are extremely popular everywhere in Germany. Traditionally designed as wooden dolls that resemble a pipe smoker, many Christmas markets now sell a huge range of smokers that represent hobbies and professions. According to ore mountain lore, the creation of the smoker goes back to the 19th century when a crafty tree trunk convinced a poor lumberjack to free the figurine within. 


Nussknacker (Nutcrackers) 

Traditional German "Nussknacker" walk the line between Christmas magic and kitsch beautifully. Originally a household staple for colder days when nuts were a staple in the local winter diet. This guide to the nutcracker goes into more detail about where the design originated. 

A Magical Christmas

I hope you have enjoyed this small window into the world of a German christmas. For those who really cannot get enough and want to experience all these decorations in action, the German Christmas Museum offers an immersive Christmas experience all year round. But at this time of year, look no further than your next Christmas market and enjoy seeing everything while enjoying a mulled wine.