Since the shortness of the days made winter official, you can see them appearing in many windows throughout Germany: Illuminated candle arches. The wooden arches, carefully carved and equipped with natural or electric candles, bring a magical light and a lovely atmosphere to dark winter nights. How did it happen though that it was elaborately decorated bridges with candles that became a tradition?
The origin of this custom is, as so many things in the region, the mining history oft he Ore Mountains. The miners had to spend the winter months pretty much completely in the dark. When their shift began, sun hadn’t risen yet. When they were done fort he done, it had already set. The desire to light is expressed in many Ore mountains inventions such as Christmas pyramids, advent candle holder or the Candle bridge.
It was also a miner’s event – the traditional last shift before Christmas called Mettenschicht – where a candle arch made its first public appearance. The first ones were made out of metal and showed mining and biblical scenes, such as the eviction of Adam and Eve.
Where the arch got its distinctive shape from is unclear. Some claim it is shaped like the entrance to the mines, some claim it is supposed to look like the nightly sky. It used to be tradition that the arches had to have an odd number of candles. Like that, one candle always was the center on the top of the arch.
Today, that’s not necessarily the case anymore. The ways of design and choice of motives have developed further and there are many more variations today than there used to be. Made entirely made out of wood today, it is especially the so-called „double-“ or „3D candle arches“ that are popular today. It consists of two layers of broad arches with the electric candles inbetween. They create an indirect, warm light loved by many.
Spectacular jig saw work is often used today to decorate the arches. They arouse the impression of a real forest surrounding the scenery in the middle. The Ore mountain forests, the Nativity scene and the little cities of the region are only a few examples of what inspires the carvers today.
One things hasn’t changed since the 18th centuries though: People still cherish and love the warm candlelight that brightens up their Christmas time.