Rocking around the Christmas pyramid!
Every year, thousands of people join in singing an ode to the beloved Christmas tree – but, if history hadn’t taken its course, it could so easily have been ‘O Christmas Pyramid’!
The origin of Christmas pyramids – which are made of wood and based on four- to eight-sided platforms on which nativity scenes are depicted – can be traced back as far as the Middle Ages.
During this period, it was traditional in southern and western Europe to bring evergreen branches, for example boxwood, into the home and hang them in order to ward off moroseness in the dark and cold winter months.
By contrast, in northern Europe traditional candles were used to achieve this goal. The Christmas pyramid would eventually unify these two traditions and become a symbol of Christmas celebrations – much as the Christmas tree is today.
The forerunner of the pyramid was a construction known as a Lichtergestelle (which literally means ‘light stand’), which were very popular in the 18th century. These were constructions made of four poles, decorated with evergreen boughs, tied together at the top and lit with candles.
The name "Christmas pyramid" came about because the Napoleonic Campaign in Egypt at the end of the 18th century brought pictures of the pyramids back to Europe and eventually to the Ore Mountains, where they reminded the people of the mining capstans and also of the Christmas constructions.
Christmas pyramids take various forms from intricately carved miniature houses with pitched roofs, to large multi-level structures that simply serve as a display for the carved figures.
In many cities in the Ore Mountains, there are still large Christmas pyramids on the Market Square at the Christmas Market or in other locations associated with Christmas hustle and bustle.