A Shining Star: the Herrnhut Stern or Moravian Star…


Christmas time in Germany is not only Weihnachtspyramiden and Schwibbogen (pyramids and lighted arches) which shine light during that special time of year, but the very popular Herrnhut Star (also known as Moravian Star) also casts its mesmerizing glow throughout streets, busy town squares and even on top of Christmas trees during the Advent time.

As a representation of the star of Bethlehem, the 26-point star has been a popular Christmas decoration for almost 200 years in Germany and is to this day a traditional symbol of hope. Herrnhut, which means “under the Lord’s protection,” has its origin in the 18th century with the forefathers of the Moravian Church. Wanting to return to simpler religious practices, the group of people who later became known as Moravians were forced to flee their homeland of Bohemia and Moravia. They found refuge in Saxony, Germany where they founded a village called Herrnhut and even established schools.

It was in such a school that the first Moravian Star was created but more as a math lesson than a decoration, probably to explain geometry. 50 years later an alumnus of the school began making the stars and offered instructions on how to assemble them at his bookstore. His son then went on to found the Herrnhut Star Factory.

Being one of Germany’s oldest Christmas decoration, the original Herrnhut Sterne are now available in an array of colors, sizes and materials and are hung in apartments, windows, on front porches, churches, public squares, but also in malls and store windows.

It’s been a long-standing tradition to assemble the paper star within the family and hang it on the first Sunday of Advent. The assembly of a Star can take a few hours depending on its material. Plastic ones usually take a little longer due to their intricate parts.

Nowadays the most common Herrnhut Star has 26 points, usually made up of 18 squares and 8 triangular comes that made up a sphere. The mathematical word for it is rhombicuboctahedron (try to say that three times fast). It honestly takes a while to put together since you have to see how the pieces fit and in what order they go… just like a puzzle!

Today Moravian Stars come in a multitude of sizes ranging from very big to very small; they even come in form of string lights. Many people in Germany use them as pendant lights during the Christmas time. You can purchase them already assembled or as a kit.

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