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Friday, December 19, 2014

Moravian Christmas Traditions Dating Back to Colonial Times


Moravian Christmas Traditions

by Tamera Lynn Kraft


In my novella, A Christmas Promise, I write about Moravian missionaries in Schoenbrunn Village, circa 1773. The Moravians brought many Christmas traditions to America that we use to celebrate Christ’s birth today. Here are a few of them.

The Christmas Tree: Moravians brought the idea of decorating Christmas trees in their homes in the early 1700s, long before it became a popular tradition in the United States.

Christmas Eve Candlelight Services: Most churches have Christmas Eve services where they sing Christmas carols and light candles to show Jesus came to be the light of the world. The Moravian Church has been doing that for centuries. They call their services lovefeasts because they also have a part of the service where they serve sweetbuns and coffee – juice for the kids – and share Christ’s love with each other. For candles, Moravians use bleached beeswax with a red ribbon tied around them. The white symbolizes the purity of Christ and red symbolizes that His blood was shed for us.

The Moravian Star: In the 1840s at a Moravian school, students made 24 point stars out of triangles for their geometry lessons. Soon those Moravian stars started making their way on the tops of Christmas trees. The star as a Christmas tree topper is still popular today.

The Putz: The putz is a Christmas nativity scene surrounded by villages or other Biblical scenes. Moravian children in the 1700s would make a putz to put under their Christmas tree. Today, nativity scenes and Christmas villages are popular decorations.

1 comment:

  1. I loved reading your blog today, Tamera! Much of my childhood was spent growing up in Winston-Salem, NC. At the edge of town is Old Salem, a living history Moravian village. Each year, school children would be bussed into Old Salem to attend the Moravian Candle Tea in the Single Brothers House where we'd be given an opportunity to sing carols to the playing of an old Moravian organ, then taken downstairs to see the ladies of the church (in traditional Moravian garb) make the beeswax candles and wrap them in red crepe paper fringe. We'd be given Moravian sugar cake and sweet Moravian coffee, then guided to the cellar to view the putz of Old Salem in the snow in the 1800s. Last would come a viewing of the hillsides of Judea in a grotto with a Nativity scene created in Oberammergau, Germany, and the reading of the Christmas story from Luke. We'd all sing "O Little Town of Bethlehem," then go up the stairs and out into the cold winter air. It was my favorite part of Christmas preparations. As an adult I return to Old Salem for the Candle Tea whenever I can, and have very fond memories of Moravian Love Feasts on Christmas Eve. Thank you for reviving those memories today!!!


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