Word of the Week: Weihnachtspyramide

Everyone has heard of the Christmas tree and its historic German roots before it caught on as a widespread holiday tradition in Victorian Era Britain and North America.

A visit to most German homes, as well as Christmas markets, will however also reveal another item that is quite popular during the holiday season in Germany: a “Weihnachtpyramide,” or Christmas pyramid.

Despite its namesake, the Christmas pyramid has nothing in common with those unusual stone structures dating back to Ancient Egypt. From the smallest versions set up in private apartments and family homes across Germany to giant ‘pyramids’ that tower above people sipping mulled wine (Glühwein), dining on potato pancakes (Kartoffelpfannkuchen), shopping for gifts (Geschenke), Christmas decorations (Weihnachtsschmuck), Stollen or other tasty treats in bustling Christmas markets, most “Weihnachtspyramiden” are made out of wood.

They are akin to multi-level ‘carousels’ depicting Christmas-related motifs such as angels and manger scenes. Some also portray secular motifs such as mountain people and forests. Typically made of wood, they tend to include several multi-sided platforms with a long pole in the middle serving as an axle. Traditionally, it spins thanks to candles that heat up the air under a propeller at the top of the carousel.

Watching them spin round and round is truly festive and even relaxing amid all the holiday hubbub. And some of the biggest ones should be sought out at German Christmas markets given that they sometimes house entire mulled wine stands – no trip to a German Christmas market is complete without a glass of piping hot, spicy “Glühwein.”

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