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Every year during the Christmas season, windows throughout Germany are lit with the soft lights of Schwibbogen. The Schwibbogen, or candle Christmas arches, reach back over 270 years to the silver mines of the Erzgebirge in Germany and they weren’t actually directly connected to Christmas at first.
The first Schwibbogen, which are thought to have originated in the town of Johanngeorgenstadt, were made out of wrought iron and featured actual candles. They were put onto windowsills to guide miners through darkness and snow back home to their wives. Miners would hang their lamps before their last shift before Christmas at the mine entrance and the twinkling lights formed a glittering arch. These arches are thought to have been the inspiration for today’s Schwibbogen and symbolize the longing of light during those short winter days.
The word Schwibbogen also refers to a type of architectural design where an arch between two walls is called Schwebebogen or floating arch.
Nowadays almost all Schwibbogen are LED lit and come in a variety of sizes and designs. Rather than being constructed of several pieces, they are now typically made out of one piece of wood and feature landscapes, religious and historical scenes, along with winter wonderlands and even skylines.
But even though the making of the Schwibbogen has changed over time, it remains as popular as ever especially during the Christmas time. Throughout Germany very large and elaborate Schwibbogen are set up in churches but also public squares and Christkindle Markets delighting both tourists and natives alike.