What’s a “Herrnhuter Stern”?

The Advent time arrived at the Welcome Center (Photo: S. Schückel)

If you already had the chance to stroll through Dresden’s well known „Striezelmarkt“, you might have noticed the beautiful stars hanging from Christmas trees or sales stands. With their many points enlightened in the dark, they literally look like a sparkling star in the sky. You may have also noticed – if you visited the Welcome Center recently – that there’s such a star above our entrance now.

Those specifically formed artworks have a long tradition in Germany and especially in Saxony, as they have their origin in the Saxon city of Nisky. They were first made in a boy’s school of a protestant community called “Herrnhuter Brüdergemeinde” (Moravian Church) in the 1830s. As you can easily guess, this is the reason for their naming. They were originally intended for the Epiphany festivities but soon became popular and part of the Advent time decorations. The first stars were white and red because of the symbolic meaning of the colours (white for purity and red for the blood of Jesus Christ).

Nowadays widely used during Christmas time to represent the star of Bethlehem, their original purpose is believed to be educational, as they served as a project in geometry lessons – what a great example for the beauty of mathematics! ;) The basis is one Rhombicuboctahedron (for those of you not studying mathematics: it is an Archimedean solid with eight triangular and eighteen square faces) and usually 26 points – 17 with square ones and eight triangular ones. Quite often, one point is missing in order to attach the suspension.

In case we aroused your interest and you would like to create your own little “Hernnhuter Stern”, the Saxon company “Herrnhuter” (Link to German website) offers a wide range of different models and construction manuals.



Text: S. Schückel


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