Wooden toys and Christmas folk art from A - Z

An advent candlestick („Advents­leuchter“) is a 4-armed table or pendant lamp with various figurative scenes. Candles are placed on the light spouts according to the number of the weekend in Advent. A special feature is the Advent House, a house pyramid with 4 doors. One door can be opened for each Advent.

Building block set
The building block set factory “Samuel Friedrich Fischer“ was the first industrial modular production in the world. It was founded in the Seiffen district of Oberseiffenbach in 1850 and closed its doors in 1990. Its products, especially the well-known Froebel products, received multiple awards at the international world exhibitions. Today, wooden building sets “Made in the Ore Mountains” stand for tradition, innovation and modern design. Building block kits made in the Ore Mountains have a high educational value and are still being exported to other countries.
Crib with nativity scene
Building cribs („Krippebauen“) has been a tradition in the Ore Mountains since the 18th century. From 1850 onward complete configurations have been part of the Seiffen product range. They include the central biblical figures as well as sheep farms, trees and fences and come packed in cardboard or wooden boxes. A “Seiffen nativity scene” did not want to achieve the artistic naturalism of Mediterranean nativity scenes. The focus was rather on the toy-like character, the figures were turned or pressed from mass.
The candle arch („Schwibbogen“) has been part of the Erzgebirge Christmas for over 250 years. His original home is the mountain town of Johanngeorgenstadt. There the blacksmith Johann Teller is said to have made the first wrought-iron arch around 1726. The name Schwibbogen is based on the architectural term, which means a floating arch standing freely between two walls and supported by them. According to folk lore, the shape of the candle arch is also derived from the miners hanging their burning pit lights in a semicircle on the wall (suggesting the tunnel mouth hole) at the „Mettenschicht“. The Mettenschicht is the last shift worked before Christmas, which ends early with a celebration and meal. Wooden candle arches only came up in the 20th century as a cut "jigsaw" silhouette as well as with turned, scenic depictions inside.

The typical Christmas candlesticks („Weihnachtsleuchter“), first manufactured in the 19th century, showed Baroque influences. Magnificent glass chandeliers, such as the glass chandelier created in the Heidelbach glassworks and displayed in the Seiffen church, served as a role model. A special feature is the hanging lamp. Following the principle of the pyramid, wooden disks studded with figurines are mounted on a separate construction within the chandelier and set in motion by an impeller.

Christmas mountain scene in the Seiffen Toy Museum
Christmas mountains („Weihnachtsberge“) can be traced back to the 18th century. Whether in combination with a nativity scene, as a backdrop of the local and mining scenery or as a mechanized system with many moving objects, the culture of the Christmas mountains always expressed the joy of crafting and the creative use of wood. The "Christmette zu Seiffen“ (Seiffen Christmas Mass), a winter Christmas mountain, dates back to 1915. In terms of content, the presentation refers to the custom of going to the Christmas mass with self-made wooden lanterns. The focus is on the snow-covered Seiffen mountain church. Figures made by the toy maker Karl Müller enliven this home mountain, which can be admired today in the Seiffen Toy Museum.
Flowers made from wood
The chipping and rolling up of wood with the moving iron stimulated the imagination back in the 19th century to design various floral motifs. The raw flowers are colored with oil paint in a naturalistic manner. The smallest assortment of flowers emerged around 1920. They were part of the popular decoration of dollhouses as flower sticks and flower borders. The variety of products today extends to extensive flower market scenes. The property of wood fiber to roll under certain conditions has been and is still being used in toy manufacturing. Toy trees with chipped elements are already depicted in the Waldkirchner sample book from 1850. The most well-known example is the chip tree („Spanbaum“), which has now become an integral part of Christmas decorations. Prerequisite for this is straight, knot-free wood, mostly linden.
Kurrende group with Seiffen church
The name „Kurrende“ is linguistically derived from the Latin word "currere", which means to walk. In fact, the Kurrende was once a church boys' choir walking while singing. They also helped with ringing the church bells and attended the christian funerals as funeral Kurrende. Even during Christmas today, choir singers dressed in black with a lantern and shining star go from house to house in Seiffen and wish a blessed Advent and Christmas season with chorals and festive songs. Around 1935, Max Schanz designed the first small group of Kurrende figures made of wood.

Increasing prices for wood and the change of weight customs regulations led to miniaturization in the Erzgebirge toy industry around 1900. Smaller shapes of figures, houses, vehicles and accessories were increasingly brought onto the market. The idea of offering miniature toys in a matchbox ("Zündholzschachtel") proved to be a stroke of genius. Along with tiny dollhouses, which seem less suitable for playing but rather as a display and collectible, they were also cheap to export.

The miner („Bergmann“) had a strong emotional relationship with light. It was not only a source of lighting for his extremely dangerous work underground, but also a symbol of happiness and life. Already in the 17th century, miner's figures made of tin were used as carriers for altar candles in churches in the Ore Mountains. Carved light-bearing miner figures for private use followed. Later the now familiar shape turned from wood led to greater distribution and popularity.
The light angel („Lichterengel“) first appeared in the turned form after 1830. It is assumed that the model for it was the Nuremberg Tinsel Angel. They were merged by Erzgebirge wood turners from the simple doll figurine into the standing, wooden angel figure with light spout and wooden wings. In Seiffen, the angel's crown with arches and serrations became a simple form of rotation that resembles the mining shaft hat.

Music boxes („Spieldosen“) are based on the wooden noise boxes that have been part of the Erzgebirge toy range since 1800. Music boxes often departure Christmas scenes with an accompanying melody created inside. The poetry of the constant circular movement, the dialogue between music and figures and the implementation of the small melodies in the material of the wood may have been appealing starting points for the fact that a multitude of musical boxes with children's and fairytale scenes has been produced in the Ore Mountains since around 1935.

Lanterns made from wood in the Seiffen Toy Museum
The old custom of going to the Christmas mass with specially decorated lanterns on Christmas Eve experienced a strong revival in Seiffen after 1915. At the suggestion of the then head of the Seiffen toy maker school, Prof. Alwin Seifert, mass lanterns („Mettenlaternen“) were manufactured as part of the training of students.
Miniaturized wooden toys in a matchbox
In 1905, the “Ore Mountain Farmhouse Parlor with the Oven Bench” was the first miniature in the matchbox. For this purpose, furnishings from a scaled down farmhouse parlor were glued into a matchbox („Zündholzschachtel"). During the following years over a hundred different versions in series of hundreds of thousands a year were added in the Seiffen area. In addition to the permanently glued-in scenarios, the imaginative and artfully designed packaging also comes with movable miniatures, construction assortments and even the smallest board games.
Wooden nutcrackers
The traditional symbolic decorations of the Christmas season includes nuts as a sign of the burgeoning life as well as a messenger of the new and unknown. In order to get to the "sweet core", cracking the shell often became a cult act. As early as the 18th century, “nut bitters” were particularly popular as figures with elements of quiet irony and popular social satire. Wilhelm Friedrich Füchtner is one of the first creators of the world-famous Seiffen nutcracker („Nussknacker“), who began to make turned figural nutcrackers as a sideline around 1870.
Noah's ark
Noah’s ark („Arche Noah“) has been produced in the Ore Mountains since the 19th century. Hundreds of thousands of ship, board and wheel arks were found all over the world. The roof or entire walls can be opened to stow the figures and the animal crew. The animal figures with up to “300 creatures” were mostly made by wood turning and turned figurines made up Noahs family.
Noise Boxes („Klimperkästchen“) are taking advantage of the power play of wheels, cranks and pendulums and are one of the traditional toys operated by a crank. When used, buzzing or clacking sounds can be heard. This is achieved by quills in the inside of the box rubbing against taut metal wires. The simple friction wheel mechanism puts the figurines on the box into motion. Often depicted sceneries are dance couples or riders spinning in circles, a peasant woman moving the pounder in a butter churn, pigeons circling at the dovecote or birds pecking small grains.

The Erzgebirge rotary pyramid („Drehpyramide“) was developed around 1800. Within it, old customs and traditions revolving around light and mining have found a meaningful union. The forerunners were pyramid-like, immobile light frames decorated with garlands. For the Seiffen area, step and floor pyramids have been of particular importance since the middle of the 19th century. They became treasures of pyramid construction in proportion as well as detailed equipment. On several floors, figures and animals are arranged by theme. In addition to the biblical Christmas story this can also include the mining and village life. Tower and house-like variants complement the variety.

Incense smokers made from wood
The scent of incense has been part of the Erzgebirge Christmas for centuries. Hand-shaped incense cones, made from a dough of ground charcoal, beech flour, potato starch and fragrances, were manufactured in the western part of the Ore Mountains even before 1800. The emerging custom of pipe smoking may have been the reason for the toy makers to place the scented incense candle in a hollow turned figure. The first wooden incense smokers („Räuchermännchen“) with arms, feet and faces made of dough are said to be created by the Seiffen-Heidelberg turner Ferdinand Frohs around 1850. The traditional smoker with the pipe in his mouth became, in addition to the depiction of Turk and „Rastelbinder“, above all an image of the cozy villager.
The wooden Striezel children („Striezelkinder“), designed by Max Schanz and Max Auerbach around 1930, received a gold medal at the Paris World Exhibition in 1937. The upper bodies of the turned figures, painted with matte oil paint, are tilted slightly backwards to compensate for the weight of the vendor’s tray filled with all sorts of "Christmas stuff". In the 19th century, the Dresden Striezelmarkt was a place where the poor of the city could improve their lot by selling goods.

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