Friday, August 22, 2008
The Moravian Star
A star as part of the symbolism of Christmas must be as old as the celebration of the festival itself, since the Star of Bethlehem figures so prominently in the nativity story. There is nothing unique in the use of the star among Moravians. However, a particular type of star originating in Moravian circles in Germany over a hundred years ago has so caught the fancy of the church that it has come to be associated with the way this denomination celebrates Christmas.
The Moravian Star is also called the Advent Star or the Herrnhut Star. The first is appropriate because the star is hung in the church beginning with the first Sunday in Advent, preceding all other decoration. Because for a long time the star was exclusively manufactured in Herrnhut, Germany, the name of that community was attached to it.
It appears that this many pointed star with internal illumination was first a product of the evening handicraft sessions of the Moravian boys' school in Niesky, Germany, about 1850. Years later, one of the alumni, Pieter Verbeeck, began producing it commercially in his home. His son Harry founded the Herrnhut star factory, which soon developed a thriving business, its product being sent to all parts of the world. Chief outlets were Moravian communities on the Continent, the British Isles, America, and the scattered mission fields.
The Moravian Star is popular both in church and in the home. Its use has spread to hotels, stores, schools, hospitals,, community displays, or wherever it has become customary to have Christmas decorations. Today perhaps more non-Moravians are displaying the beautiful star at Christmas than are Moravians themselves.