Special Christmas traditions in Saxony's Ore Mountains ·

Special Christmas traditions in Saxony’s Ore Mountains

Mining has distinctively shaped nature in the Ore Mountains. Idyllic landscapes, unique river valleys and picturesque settlements stem from the 800-year old history of mining which the Ore Mountains must thank for its wealth, its name and its economic significance. This incredible region of Saxony has been recognized and honored this year as the UNESCO World Heritage Committee included the “Ore Mountains/Krusnohori Mining Region” in its UNESCO World Heritage List. As you will read, the Ore Mountains are known for their deeply rooted traditions and customs, which are still authentically lived out here. Mountain processions and Mettenschichten (old German mining customs at Christmas) are still a permanent feature of the wintertime and Christmas season in the Ore Mountains.

For most people Christmas is the most beautiful time of the year – contemplative, full of secrets and tempting scents. In the Ore Mountains, in particular, events such as Christmas carols in churches and in public places, the miners’ last shift on Christmas Eve, the miners’ parades, Christmas markets in castle keeps, palace courtyards and central squares intermingle in the “Saxon Advent Calendar.”

Embedded in a mostly snow-covered mountainous area, the historic city of Annaberg-Buchholz is only a 90 minute drive from Dresden. The traditions and customs come alive in and around the Christmas market with colorful booths selling pyramids and all kinds of possible presents and wood carvings. The Annaberg-Buchholz Christmas market ranks among the most beautiful Christmas markets in the Ore Mountains, and it is considered the cradle of the famous wooden figures. A cozy Christmas atmosphere surrounds you with culinary treats according to traditional family recipes. The miner’s parade on the 4th Advent Sunday (December 22 at 1:30 pm) with 1000 people in traditional costumes and 300 miner musicians, is a highlight for locals and visitors alike.

Like Annaberg-Buchholz, many of the small towns in the Ore Mountains have miners’ parades, including Brand-Erbisdorf, Thum, Geyer, Marienberg, Ehrenfriedersdorf and Schneeberg. And, these mining traditions and folklore drive many of the lasting local customs. Said to hearken back to the miner’s yearning for light, white fairy lights shine in the market places, light angels and miner figures as well as Schwibbögen, the little gnomes, illuminate the windows.

Almost no other district in Saxony is as popular for its Christmas rituals as the Ore Mountains with their unique tradition of crafted wooden art and toys. In many places, you can experience these old customs up close: the “Reifendrehen” (wood turning) in the Seiffen workshops, the making of bobbin lace in a parlor in Annaberg. History truly comes alive in the Seiffen toy museum, in the Saigerhütte in Olbernau, in the “Manufaktur der Träume” (manufacture of dreams) in Annaberg-Buchholz, in more than 25 exhibition mines or in a Hutz’nohmd as called in local dialect.

The highlight of Christmas in the Ore Mountains is the traditional banquet “Neinerlaa,” the traditional “Christmas Eve Dish” of the miners’ families. The “Neinerlaa” (Nine Things) traditionally consists of nine different dishes. They represent memories and wishes for health, money or love. The dishes are defined, yet the order varies regionally. There are lentils or peas, bratwurst, sauerkraut, herring or fish bites with apple salad, potato salad, sausages, grout or millet porridge, rose hip soup, roast pork with dumplings, Semmelmilch (a desert made of milk and bread rolls) with chopped nuts, bread and salt and prunes. The restaurant ” Zum Neinerlaa” right on the Market Square in Annaberg-Buchholz offers this traditional menu that is not only a meal but a unique experience. Zum Neinerlaa has actually received a patent for its particular Neinerlaa dish and recipe that can only be served on the restaurant’s plates.

At the top of the city is the beautiful cathedral of St Anne: The St. Annenkirche, built 1499 – 1525, is one of the most important late Gothic hall churches in Germany. The St. Annenkirche becomes an Advent experience itself with numerous Christmas concerts. Every hour, there is a ten-minute organ concert. In addition, the tower tour offers a unique view of the festively decorated city. The magnificent interior contains valuable art treasures, including the pulpit by the sculptor Franz Maidburg, the so-called Annaberg Bergaltar by Hans Hesse, the baptismal font and the “Beautiful Door” by Hans Witten. Listening to the sound of the recently restored Walcker organ from 1884 with its over 4000 pipes and 65 stops is a special highlight.

In heart of Annaberg-Buchholz is the Hotel Wilder Mann which is an old hotel with modern conveniences and furnishings and has the traditional feel of the area. It is right in the center of town and easily reachable by train.
One last note, these Ore Mountain traditions may be charming and centuries-old but the Saxons are nothing if not entrepreneurial and up-to-date! They offer an app for Iphones and Androids for the Christmas markets in Saxony.

 

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