For centuries the Ore Mountains, which lie along the German-Czech border, have been the home of a hearty people. These brave souls have carved a life and community out of the mountainside, along with a king's ransom of silver, tin, and copper. Since medieval times, these mining communities have thrived, but they also became known for more than just their mining abilities. Today this region, known in Germany as Erzgebirge, is also known for its woodcarving. 

During the medieval period in Germany, mining was one of the largest sources of income for many families. German mines were famous for their salt, ore, and other precious resources. However, mining was also extremely dangerous.  Legends began to develop that shared some of the miraculous moments of divine help that many received as they worked in the precarious tunnels of the mines. Angels that guided them, with candles through dark passageways to safety. 

Over the centuries many of the miners took up woodcarving as a pastime as they waited their turn to be lowered down the mine shaft. They would often carve tiny figurines of each other, their families, and guardian angels they hoped would protect them each day as they entered the mine. These figurines were kept in their pockets as a talisman of good luck. The miner, with the distinctive brimmed cap and dust flap, and the angel became beloved symbols in the region.

Because of the darkness of the mines and a need for more light during the cold winter nights, the miner's often would carve candleholders to carry with them. Combining the charming figurines, and the need for light, the miner and the angel candleholders were brought to life by the hands of these courageous miners.  

Eventually, it became the tradition for a father to carve each chid their own candleholder at birth: a miner for a boy and an angel for a girl. Working hours in the mines were long, and often dangerous. During the long nights of winter, the women would place their miner and angel candleholders in the windows to guide their menfolk safely home. Each night of the long winter, the streets of these tiny mountain villages would be lit by the angels and miners from the homes of each window. As the father would arrive home, blow out the candles, allowing for the villagers to easily account for any miners that might be stuck in the mine. 

We hope by sharing this little legend of guiding light, community spirit, and beautiful craftsmen that perhaps you might find a little spot in your home, an mantle or a window, to light the candles to guide your loved ones home. These carved and painted Angel & Miner candleholders or perhaps the advent chandelier are a sweet way to bring light into your home this Christmas. 

For another one of our favorite German Christmas traditions, read our journal about filling shoes on St. Nicholas Day


November 01, 2022 — Chelsey Newbould


Katie said:

Thank you for sharing these educational stories of the past!

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