About Christmas Pyramids

German Christmas Pyramids


 One of the very early and unusual articles to come out of the Erzgebirge is the Christmas pyramid. It is not known exactly when the first pyramid was made but it is estimated that it was around 300 years ago. In the year of 1716, a Protestant minister in the area named Melzer, wrote “Vain youth, loving all kinds of light have erected pyramids. The first pyramids were very simple, often times just sticks tied together at the top and decorated with bright and gay materials. To maintain an upright position, the sticks had to be tied in such way that the base was broader than the top, hence, the pyramid shape, and the reason for giving them their name – pyramid.
 of old with lots of candles”.
In time flat and round platforms were developed and a center shaft was put through the platforms. Thus, the platforms could rotate. Ultimately, wings or blades were attached at the top and candles fitted to various parts of the pyramid. When the candles were lighted the heat would move the wing blades and thus rotate or propel the whole structure.

The combination of heat and light were the prominent feature of the pyramid – in contrast to the cold dampness and darkness of the mines, the people in this area had worked in for centuries. Once the basic style of the pyramid evolved, variations were made.

In every sense, each pyramid is a collector’s article. There is an immense amount of handwork in each pyramid and the constantly diminishing number of skilled workers who make these pyramids is a portent that in the years ahead there will be a steadily decreasing supply. Thus, every pyramid is a special treasure and an heirloom to be enjoyed in the future.

People who have pyramids have a special joy in using them in the Christmas season.


Some of them are grand and spectacular. Some have many platforms containing many, many different figures. These pyramids were often five to ten feet high. Today, they are usually 8” to 30” inches tall and the most frequent motif on the platforms is the nativity scene, where one can find Mary, Joseph and the infant usually in the most prominent part of the pyramid. As it rotates, there are usually shepherd following the Holy Family. Another platform may contain the Kings bringing their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. At the top of the pyramids one can often find trumpeters announcing the good news of the birth of the Christ Child with their fanfares.

Pyramids also are made with other scenes than the nativity scene. Popular motifs are fairy tales, Santa Claus, forest workers, hunters and other figures native to the culture of the area. One figure that is frequently found on a pyramid is special to the Erzgebirge and is called “Stuelpner Karl” and represents a kind of Robin Hood of the area. He is a legendary figure who stole and poached, but of course, traditionally, the spoils were always given to the needy.