Miner's figure

Last updated
An Ore Mountain miner's figure as a candle holder Aue Xmas Bergmann.jpg
An Ore Mountain miner's figure as a candle holder
The altar of the church in Crandorf with two tin miner's lights as altar lights in the foreground Kirche Crandorf Altar.jpg
The altar of the church in Crandorf with two tin miner's lights as altar lights in the foreground
Miner and angel as Christmas light bearers Bergmann und Engel2.jpg
Miner and angel as Christmas light bearers

A miner's figure (German : Bergmannsfigur) is a traditional Christmas decoration from the Ore Mountains of central Europe. [1] Miners' figures are turned or carved out of wood, and often bear two candles. They are usually displayed together with an angelic figure, also bearing a candle. This pair is intended to symbolize the relationship between man and woman or the worldly and spiritual aspects of life.


In the Ore Mountains, miners and angels, together with candle arches, smoking figures and nutcrackers, are all part of Christmas tradition. In modern times, people around the world place these candleholders on windowsills to provide light on long winter nights. [2]


Saxony’s Ore Mountain (German: Erzgerbirge) region [3] is one of the closely associated producers of this type of Christmas decoration [4] since the 1800s. Over the years, the Ore Mountains in Germany has become synonymous with high quality Christmas craftsmanship. [5] Mining was the economic driver of this area. However, miners’ hobbies of carving wood from the surrounding forest provided a supplementary income to the Ore Mountain villages and have continued until present. [6]

It was one of the traditional "duties" of every Ore Mountain man, when he became a father, to carve a miner or an angel for his child. The miner for a son and the angel for a daughter.

And at Christmas time, the "fifth season" in the Ore Mountains, these figures were placed in windows and so passers-by could see how many children there were in the house. [7] The figures also had, however, another purpose and thus became a symbol for the region. When miners went to the pit early in the morning, it was still dark, especially in the winter months. Likewise, it was dark in the mine itself and their place of work was only dimly lit. When their long shift was over the moon was already in the sky. In order to light the way for their menfolk in the dark winter's night, the women placed the Light Miner (Lichterbergmann) and the Light Angel (Lichterengel), as the figures were called, in the windows.

The angel became a symbolic figure for the pious mining folk of the Ore Mountains. The angels acted as guardians and light-bearers on the dark and difficult road into the mine. In some versions, the wooden angels holding candles represented miners’ wives [8] waiting for them to get home.

Related Research Articles

Nutcracker mechanical device for cracking nuts

A nutcracker is a tool designed to open nuts by cracking their shells. There are many designs, including levers, screws, and ratchets. A well-known type portrays a person whose mouth forms the jaws of the nutcracker, though many of these are meant for decoration.

Ore Mountains low mountain range in central Europe

The Ore Mountains or Ore Mountain Range in Central Europe have formed a natural border between Saxony and Bohemia for around 800 years, from the 12th to the 20th centuries. Today, the border between Germany and the Czech Republic runs just north of the main crest of the mountain range. The highest peaks are the Klínovec, which rises to 1,244 metres (4,081 ft) above sea level and the Fichtelberg.

Striezelmarkt annual Christmas market in Dresden, Saxony, Germany

The Striezelmarkt in Dresden is considered the first genuine Christmas market in the world. Founded as a one-day market in 1434, it celebrated its 585th anniversary in 2019. Its 240 stands attract about 3 million visitors from all over the world. The annual market lasts throughout the Advent season until Christmas Eve.

Christmas decoration decorations at Christmastimes

A Christmas decoration is any of several types of ornamentation used at Christmastime and the greater holiday season. The traditional colors of Christmas are pine green (evergreen), snow white, and heart red. Blue and white are often used to represent winter, or sometimes Hanukkah, which occurs around the same time. Gold and silver are also very common, as are other metallic colours. Typical images on Christmas decorations include Baby Jesus, Father Christmas, Santa Claus, and the star of Bethlehem.

Johanngeorgenstadt Place in Saxony, Germany

Johanngeorgenstadt is a mining town in Saxony’s Ore Mountains, 17 km south of Aue, and 27 km northwest of Karlovy Vary. It lies in the district of Erzgebirgskreis, on the border with the Czech Republic, is a state-recognized health resort (Erholungsort), and calls itself Stadt des Schwibbogens. Its population decline since the 1950s has been extremely severe falling from 45,000 residents in 1953 to only about one tenth of that now.

Silver Road historical holiday route in Germany

The 140-kilometre-long road, the Silver Road is the first and longest holiday route in the German Free State of Saxony. Against the background of the importance of mining in the history of Saxony, the road links those sights and tourist attractions of the Ore Mountains and its foreland that relate to the centuries-old mining and smelting industries of the region.

Fell Exhibition Slate Mine mine

The Fell Exhibition Slate Mine is a former slate mine in Germany located about 20 km east from Trier (Germany) and about 60 km east of Luxembourg (city) (Luxembourg) near the villages Fell and Thomm. The exhibition mine can be visited every day from April to October. The Exhibition Mine consists of two typical roof slate mines from the early 20th century, situated one above the other, a slate mining trail and a small mining museum.

Christmas pyramid German Christmas decoration comprising a pyramidal frame with candle holders and a central carousel with a rotor at the top driven by candles’ warm air, decorated with nativity scenes, angels, wise men, miners, forest scenes, etc.

Christmas pyramids are Christmas decorations that have their roots in the folklore and customs of the Ore Mountain region of Germany, but which have become popular internationally. They comprise a decorated pyramidal outer frame with candle holders and a central carousel with a rotor at the top which is driven by warm air from the lit candles. The carousel is decorated with nativity scenes and other Christmas figures such as angels and wise men, as well as worldly motifs such as mining folk and forest scenes.

Seiffen Place in Saxony, Germany

The town of Seiffen is located in the district of Erzgebirgskreis, which is in the central south of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. The earliest record of the town dates to 1324 when it was referred to as "Cynsifen".


A schwibbogen is a decorative candle-holder from the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge) region of Saxony, Germany. The first metal schwibbogen was made in 1740 in Johanngeorgenstadt. The early candle arches consisted of a single forged piece of black ore which could be painted. The number of candles varies with the size of the arc, the original design holding eleven.


The Räuchermann, erzgebirgisch Raachermannel is an incense smoker, the invention of toy makers in the Ore Mountains, used to burn down cone incense, known as Räucherkerzchen.

Angel chimes

Angel chimes also known as angel-abra are a form of Christmas decoration popular in Europe and North America. They apparently have the same origins as the Christmas pyramid, which functions on the same principle. They differ from these, primarily, in being mass-produced from metal and featuring bell-ringing angels, whereas Christmas pyramids are usually crafted from wood and don't necessarily have bells.

Berggeschrey or Berggeschrei was a German term for the rapid spread of news on the discovery of rich ore deposits that led to the rapid establishment of a mining region, as in the silver rush in the early days of silver ore mining in the Ore Mountains. It is similar in some respects to the gold rush in North America.

Ore Mountain Toy Museum, Seiffen

The Ore Mountain Toy Museum in Seiffen is an internationally known museum of Ore Mountain toys and Ore Mountain folk art. It was opened in 1953 in Seiffen. In 1973 it was joined by the Ore Mountains Open-Air Museum, a folk art and local historic museum with 14 houses typical of the Ore Mountains before 1900 on the edge of the toy village.

Ore Mountain folk art folk art

Ore Mountain folk art is a well-known form of highly artistic wood carving from East Germany. Typical creations include Christmas decorations and products such as wooden miners' figures (Bergmannsfigur), Christmas angels (Weihnachtsengel), Reifendrehen figures of animals made by wood turning, smoking figures (Räuchermann), Christmas mountains (Weihnachtsberge) and Christmas pyramids (Flügelpyramiden), as well as candle arches (Schwibbogen), nutcrackers, and music boxes. Even today these are made entirely by hand, primarily in small craft businesses.


The Mettenschicht is an old German mining custom in the Ore Mountains. It is the name given to the last shift worked before Christmas, which ends early with a celebration and meal.

Wooden toymaking in the Ore Mountains

The history of wooden toymaking in the Ore Mountains is closely bound to regional circumstances. The Ore Mountains are located in Central Europe on the border between Germany and the Czech Republic. For many centuries it was a countryside in which the local population eked out a hard existence from the land. Long and harsh winters restricted agriculture; in addition the region had very poor communications. With the onset of ore mining a new line of commerce developed, but the hard labour and high risks involved meant that it was only work for young and strong men. Many were injured or died as a result of accidents. The miners rose early in the morning whilst it was still dark in order to go to work and did not return home again until late in the evening after dark. From those times comes a custom that has survived to the present day, the practice of placing lights in the window. These lights were intended to show the miners the safe way back to the homes of their families.

Miners parade

The Miners' Parade is a parade traditionally held in places in Germany where ore was and is smelted. It was and is a public event held by a community or corporation whose employment is linked to mining and smelting. It is usually known in German as a Bergparade, but also as a Berg- und Hüttenparade. It takes place as one of the highlights of a festival. The Miner's Parade is a special form of procession which is organised to march past important dignitaries or which is organized for such high-ranking individuals.

Saxon Mining Office government agency

The Saxon Mining Office is the executive authority for mining rights in the German state of Saxony. It is also responsible for all non-metallic mineral resources on the terrain of the former East Germany.

Nutcracker doll toy of German origin

Nutcracker dolls, also known as Christmas nutcrackers, are decorative nutcracker figurines most commonly made to resemble a toy soldier. In German tradition, the dolls are symbols of good luck, frightening away malevolent spirits. While nearly all nutcrackers from before the first half of the 20th century are functional, a significant proportion of modern nutcrackers are primarily decorative, and not able to crack nuts. Nutcrackers are also a part of German folklore, serving as protectors of a house.