The History of German Woodworking and Crafts in Erzgebirge


German wooden crafts and souvenirs have been loved by the world for centuries, but do you know the history behind these fantastic creations? The most well-known wooden pieces of art from Germany are traditional cuckoo clocks, but there are more wooden handicrafts than this. Today we talk about the history of German woodworking, how German wooden Christmas ornaments became a household item, and the special nature of the Erzgebirge region in Germany.

The History of German Woodworking

The Ore Mountain region in Germany is called Erzgebirge. It shares a border with the Czech Republic and is one of the areas where German woodworking became a way of life after the Bronze Age and mining metals became more challenging to exploit. The Erzgebirge holds an important place in history because the mining of tin, silver, other precious metals, granite, and later cobalt began here. In the 16th century, the Ore Mountains were the most sought out place for the mining industry, but it didn’t last long. 

By the 17th century, mining came to a standstill, and the miners had to find other ways to make their income. Some turned to agriculture, but the weather conditions made this a seasonal occupation that couldn’t support the community. So new skills flourished, like textile making and woodwork. While small mining projects continued to happen over the years, it was the wooden art and toys that stood the test of time. Still to this day, German wooden crafts and ornaments are loved, and the traditional craftsmanship has been passed down from generation to generation.

What Are the Most Popular Wooden Crafts from Germany?

You can find many popular wooden crafts and toys at Christmas markets if you ever visit Germany, or your family may bring out a number of wooden Christmas ornaments around that special time of year. We sell the most popular German wooden Christmas ornaments on our new website dedicated to Erzgebirge wooden crafts. So you can get something special for everyone on your Christmas list or bring some joy to your home around the holidays. 

Christmas Ornaments

Since Christmas has always been a special time of year for Germans, wooden Christmas ornaments and decorations were the mainstays of the crafts created in the Ore Mountain region. 

Christmas Pyramid — Every German house has a Christmas pyramid that lights up the room. These decorations display different scenes, like the nativity, angels, wise men, Santa, carolers, village life, church scenes, snowmen, or animals and forest scenes. Handcrafted figurines are placed on a carousel that rotates either by the heat of the candles surrounding the figurines or by electrical motors. 

Candle Arch — The candle arch is another Christmas staple that displays scenes of the nativity, Christmas traditions, religious scenes, animals, or historical cityscapes. Instead of having a pyramid shape, this decoration is in an arch with candles that go over the top. Many of the modern candle arches are lit with electricity instead of candles for safety. This is a gorgeous addition to your home decor or Christmas decorations.

Nutcracker — The nutcracker was first created around 1870 and is one of the most famous wooden crafts from the Ore Mountains — particularly after The Nutcracker ballet took the world by storm. The nutcracker’s popularity grew in the 19th century and became synonymous with Christmas time. They come in a variety of colors and different heights to suit everyone’s taste. While the early nutcrackers were functional and used to crack nuts, many of them sold today are purely decorative. 

Cuckoo Clocks

Since we are talking about woodwork and handmade crafts, we have to touch on cuckoo clocks — even though they are made in the Black Forest, the southwest region of Germany. The cuckoo clock is the largest and most complicated German wood carvings and has the most details, hence why the price is much higher than other wooden crafts.

Why Are Wooden Crafts So Special?

Erzgebirge wooden crafts are special because they keep the artisan tradition of making hand-crafted wooden arts alive. Each piece is made by hand, from the detailed carving to the painting and assembling of the figurines. There’s even an association for these artists to join, called Erzgebirgische Volkskunst, which includes manufacturers following the traditional methods of craftsmanship. Look for the trademark symbol “Echt Erzgebirge-Holzkunst mit Herz” on the product to make sure it’s not an imitation. This helps support the continued craftsmanship of handmade wooden crafts.

We take pride in having beautiful ornaments, Christmas pyramids and arches, nutcrackers, and more from the craftsmen of Erzgebirge. Visit our new website to see our full selection of Erzgebirge wooden ornaments and handicrafts.



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