Christmas in the Erzgebirge


December is the loveliest of months in the Erzgebirge, a mountain range in Germany. Most years, the forests, fields, and villages lie peacefully beneath deep snow. The landscape seems wrapped in reverence.

By the first Sunday in December, all the houses are decorated and ready for Christmas. A candle is lit each Sunday that month, and by the time the fourth candle burns on the last Sunday before Christmas, each home is filled with a new light. People give gifts to friends: a visit to the sick, an evening of crafts with the children, a helping hand for those in need.

Tradition plays an important role in our Christmas celebrations. To our ancestors who mined the Erzgebirge, light—especially in the dark times of the year—became a symbol for faith, warmth, and security. People came with their loved ones to worship the Lord at church services. Hardworking, faithful people knelt in prayer. Bells rang in celebration of Christmas.

In our home, when the bells first rang, we would sit at our brightly covered table and listen as Father read about the birth of our Lord. Then, as Mother had taught us, we three children laid our small, homemade gifts under the Christmas tree. Everyone was remembered—grandparents, uncles, and aunts. Even the birds got better food, and the dog got sausage.

As the bells rang on Christmas Eve, we would go for a walk. The snow glistened from the Christmas lights; it seemed as though we were walking in a sea of stars. The pine trees in front of all the homes were covered with candles. Carved wooden miners and angels, each holding a candle, peered at us from windows. Christmas displays depicted scenes surrounding the birth of the Christ child: shepherds in the fields, Wise Men coming to worship Him, Jesus resting in the manger, Mary bending over Him, Joseph protecting the small family, donkeys and sheep and shepherds kneeling.

After our walk, we would come home with eyes lit up by the winter night. Inside, we would be greeted by the smell of pine boughs. Cookies Mother had baked would be waiting for us.

Little has changed since I was young. Most of the old traditions remain—with a few additions. The members of the Lord’s Church hold a joyous branch party. Missionaries and members feel secure and find joy as we fill our celebration with music and worship. The Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, bless our lives. A deep peace fills our hearts. It is a peace the world needs desperately.

As the snow gently covers the Erzgebirge, so the peace of Christmas can rest on our hearts always. If we will let it, the light of a star that once signaled His birth will brighten all our days and make each night holy. We pray for such a miracle, knowing that our Father and His Son live—and because They do, because They love us, the peace of Christmas will always offer hope to a weary world.

[illustration] Illustrated by Gregg Thorkelson