One of the most familiar signs of Christmas is the illuminated Moravian Star that lights up many a front porches around the world. When I first arrived in Dresden I loved seeing them everywhere, transforming the city into a fairyland during and after Advent.
The star is an illuminated lantern with 26 points and has an interesting origin.
Herrnhut- the first Moravian settlement
In 1722 exiles from Bohemia came to the region of Upper Lusatia in Saxony anf founded the “Unitas fratrum” on the land of Count Zinzendorf who supported them. It was possible because Augustus the Strong himself signed a document some years earlier allowing religious freedom in his mostly protestant electorate while he became catholic to be king in Poland. The brethren called their new found settlement “under the charge of the lord”, in german: Herrnhut. In the next decades and centuries they founded missions all over the world and are to be found in Germany for example in Niesky.
Many believe that the star originates in this town of Niesky in the 1830’s as part of a classroom assignment. Beginning with plain, flat paper, the assignment was to craft 26 star points that could be attached to form a three dimensional star. As class after class began to craft the stars, the town realised what a unique decoration they made for celebrating Christmas.
Half a century later, mass production of the stars started in a factory in the town of Herrnhut. It is still a lot of handwork to do and as a customer you can buy them in all sizes, the bigger ones have to be put together at home, so it´s still bringing families together to craft in advent time. They are popularly called the Herrnhut Stars in Germany.
A huge Herrnhut Star hangs proudly atop the Frauenkirche in Dresden during Advent and can be seen shining brightly from a distance.