Welcome to the Christmas Wonderland


Winter 2013 | The Christmas magazine for the free state of Saxony


Welcome to the Christmas Wonderland


The advent time is exciting for the

choir boys, but also exhausting.

A house visit at the boarding school.

Erich Kästner

As a child, the Dresden writer had to

be the ultimate diplomat

at Christmas.


Grandmother Zeidler bakes following

the secret recipe from a princess, which

was at some point stolen by a relative.

When the sun goes down,

even the busy Leipzig folk

wind down at the Christmas

market. From the 26 November

over 250 stalls invite you

to stay a while, – and five days

later, the first window of the

largest freestanding advent

calender in the world opens

– its frontage is 857 square



Title: interTOPICS / W, J.Mehl; producer: Knuth Neuber Seiffener Candle arches Ore Mountains; Photos: Joerg Glaescher / laif; Sebastian Arlt


Welcome to the Winter Wonderland

Of course the Saxons didn't invent Christmas. Even they would shy away from

actually trying to steal the copyright from the almighty in heaven. But you

could still almost believe that advent and the whole Christmas celebration were

thought up in the heart of Saxony, between Upper Lusatia and the Vogtland.

There is hardly another spot in Germany that can boast such a wealth of Christmas

traditions as the free state of Saxony. This booklet will guide you through

Christmas country, leading you to magical places where you can immerse yourself

in the Christmas festivities. It will give you an insight into how the Saxons

keep their old traditions alive – and how they have come up with new ones too.

The tour starts at one of the most enchanting Christmas markets in Saxony and

leads us to the Ore Mountains, where Bettina Bergmann still uses her grandfather's

creations for inspiration for her own carvings. Then we carry on to the

kitchen where top chef Benjamin Unger has reinvented the cuisine of the mountain

region in Aue. A visit to Herrnhut is also on our schedule – this is where the

most beautiful Christmas stars in the country are hand crafted. In the Baroque

castle Moritzburg visitors can travel back in time to the recent past: the fairytale

"Three gifts for Cinderella" was shot here in 1973. Nowadays this film is not only

obligatory viewing at Christmas in Saxony but in many countries around the

world. With just as much cult status and still cosy: the advent time in the hip

and trendy Neustadt district of Dresden, where "advent windows" are opened

every day in the Christmas countdown. We will also be speaking to a dancing

"nut cracker" from the Ukraine before spilling a carefully guarded secret. But

that's all the clues we are going to give you about this reading odyssey...


The editorial team

Welcome to the Christmas Wonderland

1 Annaberg:

Blaze of light

The Christmas market

at Annaberg-Buchholz is

considered to be one of

the most beautiful in

Saxony. Page 6

2 LeiPzig:

Advent in a box

The members of the

Thomaner Choir enjoy

Christmas most at

boarding school. Page 8


3 GrünhAinichen:

The lady who brings

angels to life

Carver craftswoman

Bettina Bergman uses

old patterns for her

creations. Page 10

4 Aue: Simple dishes

filled with symbolism

Top chef Benjamin

Unger reinterprets dishes

from the Ore Mountain

region. Page 12

5 Herrnhut:

Let the stars shine

What must be the most

beautiful Christmas

accessory is created

in this little twinkle

town. Page 15

Illustration: Artur Bodenstein / Caroline Seidler

6 Dresden:

Claiming three places

under the Christmas


Christmas Eve brought

calamity to Erich Kästner.

Page 16

7 Freiberg: "Glück

auf, Glück auf, der

Steiger kommt!"

The miner's associations

still uphold the Christmas

traditions of the

miners. Page 18


8 Moritzburg:

Three stories about


"The" Christmas cult film

was shot at the Baroque

castle – and its ghost still

remains to this day.

Page 20

9 Markneukirchen:

The singing

soul of wood

Ekkard Seidl builds his

violins with character in

the music corner. Page 22

10 Dresden:

A window for every day

The culture hotspot Neustadt

celebrates advent

in its own unique way.

Page 24


11 Dresden:

Magic in a snowstorm

The ballerina Anna

Merkulova dances in

the "Nutcracker" – and

loves the Christmas atmosphere

in Dresden.

Page 26

Where Christmas

is at home

Advent turns the free state

into a winter wonderland.

Discover it for yourself!

12 Coswig:

The secret purloined

from the strict princess

Christine Zeidler follows

a special recipe for her

Dresden "Christstollen"

cake. Page 28

Saxony's Christmas


The most peaceful places

in the free state over


Ten tips Page 30

Welcome to the Christmas Wonderland


Photo: Franz Marc Frei



ablaze with


Looking for handcrafted carvings from the Ore Mountains?

Third stand on the right. Plauen lace? Just opposite. Genuine

Pulsnitzer gingerbread? Just here. Here you are. A friendly chat

and a glass of punch? At just about every other stand – you're

welcome! Every region of Saxony has its own specialities, its

own dishes which are there for you to discover at the market

stalls. What they all have in common though, is the idea of

making the advent time into something really special, a time

of reflection and spending time with one another. This is seen

for example at the Christmas market in Annaberg-Buchholz in

the Ore Mountains, where 1200 men in traditional costume

and uniform and 300 musicians get together for a massive parade

on the fourth Sunday of advent. Together they bring the

old mining traditions to life. And they want everyone to enjoy

themselves – with a glass of mulled wine at the Christmas

market, which is usually deep in snow. To find out which other

markets are worth a visit, turn to page 30


Welcome to the Christmas Wonderland

The elite boys' choir, the

Leipzig Thomaner Choir

was founded 801 years

ago. Advent is the most

exhausting time of year

for Max Gläser (right) and

Jakob Schöbel (right bottom)

– but also one of

the best: The halls of the

boarding school building

are filled with a very special

Christmas spirit.



in the box

The Thomaner Choir boys

Max Gläser (13; soprano) and

Jakob Schöbel (15; alto) on…


Max: Our most stressful time of year! We already sing

three times a week in the Thomaskirche, and now we

have extra rehearsals, trips and carol singing evenings.

For example at the Schloss Bellevue, at Mr.Gauck. I

have already had the honour of shaking his hand at the

800-year celebration of the choir.

Jakob: But it is still the best time of the year somehow

there is just something very special about the atmosphere.

And that's because we have a lot of little traditions.

The boarding school is beautifully decorated; we

sing Christmas carols and we even spend Christmas

Eve here.

... life at boarding school:

Jakob: There are currently 103 boys. We call the boarding

school the "box". We live in small "houses", the

"dorm rooms" , where there is a mix of boys from all

school classes.

Max: And they are decorated by the "sixth formers" for

the first of advent. They put the decorations up at

night, when everyone is asleep. In my first year here

I heard this clattering and rattling, but I didn't know

what was going on. When I woke up in the morning,

the windows were covered in pictures. There were advent

wreaths, branches of pine and a lot of Christmas

decorations. When you've never seen it before – it's just


Photos: Sebastian Arlt; Picture-Alliance / ZB / Waltraud Grubitzsch



… Bach's Christmas Oratorio:

Jakob: Most people associate this piece with the

Thomaner Choir – which makes sense, because Bach

wrote it especially for our choir nearly 300 years ago.

We just call it the "WO" – which is short for the German

title, the Weihnachtsoratorium and is less of a

mouth–full. It is not all that hard, because as a choir

singer you get to rest quite a bit during the arias and

recitatives. Pure concerts are more tiring.

Max: We start rehearsing about two weeks before the

first performances; and then later on we rehearse with

the Gewandhaus Orchestra. I don't know if I would

get the whole WO right if you were to wake me up one

night in the summer. But as a Thomaner you always

have the basics off pat.

.... Christmas day:

Jakob: We spend this in the "box". In the morning we sing

vespers, then the 16 best singers have performances, at old

people's homes, for example. In the evening we celebrate

together – and it's almost better than at home. The oldest

boys stand there with candles, Mr Biller, the Thomaskantor,

which is what we call the musical director, makes

a speech and plays something on the piano. Later on we

hand out gifts – all around a big table heaped with presents.

Max: On my first Christmas Eve at boarding school I

missed my family to start with. But when we went through

the Waldstraßenviertel (the Forest Street Quarter) in Leipzig,

ringing at the doorbells and carol singing, it was so

much fun that I forgot all about feeling homesick.

All dates are

available to

view at



Welcome to the Christmas Wonderland


The lady who brings

angels to life

Bettina Bergmann is following

in big footsteps in her little

carving studio.

Photos: Sebastian Arlt

During the war Emil Helbig sent

his son boxes to the front, with

build-your-own Christmas scenes

(top picture). His granddaughter

Bettina Bergmann (55) still uses

her grandfather's designs for

her work.

A "Dippel" (mug) for

the favourite drink in

Saxony – coffee. The

word comes from "Töpfchen"

(little pot).

If old Emil Helbig came into her studio with the sign on

the door saying "the oldest carving workshop in the Ore

Mountains", he would cast his critical eye over everything.

He would find fault with a thing or two – that is something

Bettina Bergmann is sure about – and then he would

shake his head and ask: "So where is the boss?"

Well, that's Bettina herself, actually. Just like her grandfather,

Emil Helbig, she is a wood carver, and just like him

she produces little figures and toys in Grünhainichen, one

of the centres of folk art in the Ore Mountains. In a little

house, just opposite the oversized musical box of the

world-renowned company Wendt & Kühn

Emil Helbig will, however, never set foot in his

grand-daughter's workshop – he died in 1976. But his

ghost is ever present: Helbig trained as a sculptor and was

a great craftsman. He trained at the local arts and crafts

school and at the toy maker's school in Seiffen, where

there is now an exhibition dedicated to him. Bettina Bergmann's

grandfather was also a businessman and built up a

company with 40 woodcarvers. And he could be quite surly

if he got the feeling that his art wasn't being taken seriously

– and he quite often felt like that.

"I was always asking him about carving", she tells us,

as she puts her „Dippel“ of coffee down, "but he always

muttered: It's not for girls." Her right thumb is bound

thick with plasters for protection when she is carving. She

takes up a blank for an angel figure, only half the size of

her little finger. The carving knife slices into the lime wood

– and facial features start to emerge. "There is this moment",

she says, "when the figures start to come to life.

That never ceases to amaze me."

She carves using the designs made by her genius but

difficult grandfather. Her "good and great Emil", explains

Bergmann, developed his own unique designs: "He tried

to reflect what is essential with only a few, simple cuts".

Looking at Helbig's miniatures, toys and nativity figures

you can't help but think that he must have been a good

observer who was not without a sharp sense of humour.

But they are never cute: His style of carving left edges and

corners, "unlike the rounder figures that are made in the

Ore Mountains".

Helbig's company was dispossessed in the 1970s. Walter

Helbig, Emil's sun and Bettina's father, however, continued

to work in the company for many years after. After

the reunification of Germany he wanted to make a fresh

start at the age of 72. So he put his daughter – who had

trained in the profession, but never really worked in it – to

task. With perseverance and a dose of good luck she managed

to get back the 600 samples that Emil Helbig had

once designed.

Bergmann is now sitting in front of a glass plate covered

in splats of paint. The angel that has just come to life

is to have golden hair and red wings.

When her father died, Bettina Bergmann carried on with

one other employee. "My grandfather never praised anyone",

explains the woodcarver. But maybe he would just

be a little bit proud of his granddaughter today.


Welcome to the Christmas Wonderland


Benjamin Unger is a little bleary eyed – he has hardly

set foot out of the kitchen over the last 24 hours. Unger

is head chef at the hotel "Blauer Engel" in Aue, whose

restaurant "St. Andreas" is currently listed with 17

points in "Gault & Milau". The 350 year anniversary

of the hotel is looming in the next few days, and the

34 year old is expecting not only guests, but also top

chefs for the culinary competition at a "kitchen party".

While the phone is frantically ringing in the foyer,

Unger is sitting in the wine bar talking about the cuisine

of the Ore Mountans, the value of tradition and

modern interpretations of the classics.

Mr Unger, what is the cuisine of the Ore Mountains


This is a poor people's cuisine here. Have a look

at the classics: for example, "Kartoffelfratzen in

Schwammebrie“ – literally ugly potato faces in

mushroom purée – which is basically a kind of

potato dumpling in mushroom sauce. What is


The meat.

Exactly. The mountain folk here couldn't afford

what would actually fill them up.

You trained with Ralf. J. Kutzner in the "Bülow-

Palais" in Dresden and you then took to the

road and worked in many renowned restaurants.

Why did you come back to a region with a cuisine

like this?

Firstly because of my family: my father took over

the restaurant after the reunification after he had

worked here as a chef since 1977. But also because

I felt at home in this region – not everyone is destined

to leave. I want to develop something here: I

can't teach people, but I can show them that you

can sometimes sit down for a meal for three hours,

to talk and eat.

The chef has his roots in Aue, that is something you see

straight away. And what does he think about the fact

that the Erzgebirge Aue football club recently lost its

match: "Unbelievable! The other side's goal was just

pure fluke!" And how come he is able to hold engaging

lectures on local history, considering he is only in his

mid-30s? "Well, you know, I did history as a specialist

subject at school". In the long history of the hotel – Unger

says it has seen fires, renovations and has frequently

changed hands – having a landlord family handing it

over to the next generation is a first.

His brother Claudius, ten years his junior, also runs

the business alongside Benjamin Unger.

What do you eat in the Ore Mountains at


The traditional dish is Neunerlei (literally nine different

things) – we call it „Neinerlaa“. It is made

differently in every household, but it is always a

After training as a chef in

Dresden and cooking his way

across Germany's gastronomic

temples, Benjamin

Unger returned to his

hometown of Aue.

Neinerlaa: A Christmas dish

from the Ore Mountains.

A penny is placed under the

plate to ensure that money

doesn't run out the following




filled with


The mountain folk

in the Ore Mountains

liked their food to be

hearty. But it doesn't

have to be like that:

Top chef Benjamin Unger

presents a modern

version of the traditional

Christmas dish



Welcome to the Christmas Wonderland


Benjamin Unger making

"Sauerkraut air“ (top), part

of his interpretation of

"Neunerlei“ (centre). The

350-year old building of

the "Blaue Engel" is

always decorated for

advent (bottom).

dish that is full of symbolism. There should be a

bit of everything in it – with the meat it has to be

something from the air, usually goose, something

from the water, carp, for example, and something

from the earth, like rabbit. Potato dumplings symbolise

large coins, that should bless the house, while

lentils stand for smaller coins. Celery is the fertility

symbol. Beetroot is added for red cheeks. And it

has to have sauerkraut, so that the straw grows high

in the fields.

And you're really supposed to eat all this in

one go?

Yes – three times actually. Here in the Ore Mountains

we have several Christmas evenings: Christmas

Eve, then New Year's Eve and then "Hohneujahr

-Heiligabend", as we call the Saturday before


Is the tradition of the "Neunerlei" still alive

and well?

Definitely. We put it on the menu starting on the

first advent Sunday and then we serve it on traditional

plates with nine separate sections. In our

family we have it every year on Christmas Eve as

well. Only goose, now that's something I really

have had enough of after 11 November, when

everyone eats goose for St. Martin's feast. I have

just cooked it, smelled it and tasted it too many

times by then.

In the kitchen the staff are just drinking coffee as

Benjamin Unger starts on his modern interpretation

of the "Neunerlei". Within minutes six gas burners

are burning in a row; and he quickly juggles pots and

pans on them.

Unger stirs, seasons, fills foams into little tuilles. He

lays a big sliver of a red, transparent material onto the

work surface. "Beetroot, rammed through a few compounds",

he explains.

Mr Unger, what is your contemporary

"Neunerlei" composition going to be?

This is a goose breast, laid onto some red cabbage

– I like this best done the classic way. Then beluga

lentils, done with balsamic vinegar – they are a little

finer than the normal lentils from the Ore Mountains.

They are topped with a potato thaler made of

buttermilk pastry – buttermilk stands for pure skin

and is also important in the "Neunerlei". Then I

have placed a green dumpling on top of that.

And what's that on top of the dumpling?

Sauerkraut air, a type of foam. The white dots,

that's a celery mousse, and the red dots are made of

beetroot. I also made the wafer out of beetroot, that

looks like a sail.

So it's just the fish that's missing.

Can you see the ring there on the right? That's an



Saxony – welcome to the

Christmas Wonderland

as a supplement in the

"Frankfurter Allgemeine

Zeitung“, the "Frankfurter

Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung",

the "Süddeutsche

Zeitung“ and the "WELT“

and "WELT kompakt".

Published by

Freistaat Sachsen

Sächsische Staatskanzlei

01095 Dresden

Tel. +49 351/564-0



Overall coordination

Ketchum Pleon GmbH

Goetheallee 23

01309 Dresden

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Sterneln : Making stars together

on the first of advent in Herrnhut

Herrnhut lights up: The famous stars are

hand-crafted. Yvonne Lehmann has the

skill to make a miniature version of just

13 centimetres.

Let the stars shine

What must be the most beautiful Christmas accessory

is created in a workshop in Upper Lusatia.


Photos: Sebastian Arlt; Hotel Blauer Engel

Yvonne Lehmann must have a natural

talent – there is no other way to explain


When the 41 year old moved to Herrnhut

she had never even heard of the

famous stars. "Where I came from

in North Saxony we hadn't heard of

them", says Lehmann as she folds a

piece of paper over the blade of a kitchen

knife. Six years after she arrived there

she is considered to be one of the most

talented craftswomen in the

Herrnhut workshop. She can do what

only two other of her colleagues can

do: make miniature versions of the famous

stars only 13 centimetres across.

This takes a steady hand and a great deal

of skill.

Lehmann folds the tiny piece of paper

along the prepared fold, dips a brush

into glue and glues the whole thing.

Now one of the 25 points that make up

the Moravian star is ready. It takes an

hour and a half – you just can't make an

original star any faster than that.

The tradition of the Moravian stars

has its roots in 1821 – and ironically

it stems from a generally sober subject

– maths lessons. There was a teacher

at the Herrnhut boarding school who

wanted to teach his pupils an exercise in

geometry and got them to make a star

for advent, which was to be designed to

be like the Bethlehem star. The pupils

made the first Moravian star and put

a light into its paper body. And while

their parents, Evangelical brethren missionaries

were spreading the light of belief

across the globe, the boarding school

pupils sat down together to make stars,

or to „Sterneln“, as they called it, to

get into the Christmas spirit.

The tradition survived and spread

successfully because the stars shine with

Christmas warmth with their pure, simple

design transcending fashion and featuring

as a stylish accessory, even in the

livings rooms in the cities. Now the stars

are made all year round, with a production

of up to 400,000 in a range of sizes

and colours. The classic is red and white,

the symbols for purity and the blood of

Christ. When East and West Germany

were still spilt, models with yellow

points were very popular in the East,

maybe because nobody wanted to see

red stars in their living room as well.

Yvonne Lehmann has glued eight

points to form a ring, then added another

made of four parts, and then the

last point is added on the top. In the

gaps that form she has to put little paper

balls. Then she picks up the delicate

construction with tweezers. "If I am only

a millimetre out, I can chuck it in the

bin", she says. Then she has to concentrate

so that she gets it right. And she's

hit the target. Well, she is blessed with

natural talent, after all.

Welcome to the Christmas Wonderland

No, the boy in the picture is not

Erich Kästner. But he must have

looked a bit like that when the

writer, born in 1899 in Dresden,

inspected the Christmas tree full

of hope and expectation. In the

book “When I was a little boy”, he

reminisces about his childhood at

Königsbrücker Straße 66 with a

finely tuned sense of irony – and

how too much love sent him on

an emotional rollercoaster one

Christmas Eve.



Textauszug gekürzt aus: „Als ich ein kleiner Junge war“ von Erich Kästner (c) Atrium Verlag, Zürich 1957; Foto: TV-Yesterday

Nur einmal in jedem Jahr hätte ich sehnlich gewünscht,

Geschwister zu besitzen: am Heiligabend! Am ersten Feiertag

hätten sie ja gut und gerne wieder fortfliegen können,

meinetwegen erst nach dem Gänsebraten mit den rohen

Klößen, dem Rotkraut und dem Selleriesalat. Ich hätte sogar

auf meine eigene Portion verzichtet und stattdessen Gänseklein

gegessen, wenn ich nur am 24. Dezember abends nicht allein

gewesen wäre! Die Hälfte der Geschenke hätten sie haben können

und es waren wahrhaftig herrliche Geschenke!

Und warum wollte ich gerade an diesem Abend, am

schönsten Abend eines Kinderjahres, nicht allein und nicht

das einzige Kind sein? Ich hatte Angst. Ich fürchtete mich vor

der Bescherung! Ich hatte Furcht davor und durfte sie nicht

zeigen. Es ist kein Wunder, dass ihr

das nicht gleich versteht. Ich habe

mir lange überlegt, ob ich darüber

sprechen solle oder nicht. Ich will

darüber sprechen!

Also muss ich es euch erklären.

Meine Eltern waren, aus Liebe zu

mir, aufeinander eifersüchtig. (…)

Wochenlang, halbe nächte hindurch,

hatte mein Vater im Keller

gesessen und zum Beispiel einen wundervollen Pferdestall

gebaut. Er hatte geschnitzt und genagelt, geleimt und gemalt,

Schriften gepinselt, winziges Zaumzeug zugeschnitten

und genäht, die Pferdemähnen mit Bändern durchflochten,

die Raufen mit Heu gefüllt, und immer noch

war ihm, beim Blaken der Petroleumlampe, etwas eingefallen,

noch ein Scharnier, noch ein Beschlag, noch ein

Haken, noch ein Stallbesen, noch eine Haferkiste, bis er

endlich zufrieden schmunzelte und wusste: »Das macht mir

keiner nach!« (…)

Es waren Geschenke, bei deren Anblick sogar Prinzen die

Hände überm Kopf zusammengeschlagen hätten, aber Prinzen

hätte mein Vater sie nicht geschenkt.

Wochenlang, halbe Tage hindurch, hatte meine Mutter

die Stadt durchstreift und die Geschäfte durchwühlt. Sie kaufte

jedes Jahr Geschenke, bis sich deren Versteck, die Kommode,

krumm bog. Sie kaufte Rollschuhe, Ankersteinbaukästen,

Buntstifte, Farbtuben, Malbücher, Hanteln und Keulen für

den Turnverein, einen Faustball für den Hof, Schlittschuhe,

musikalische Wunderkreisel, Wanderstiefel, einen Norwegerschlitten,

ein Kästchen mit Präzisionszirkeln auf blauem Samt,

einen Kaufmannsladen, einen Zauberkasten, Kaleidoskope,

Zinnsoldaten, eine kleine Druckerei mit Setzbuchstaben und,

von Paul Schurig und den Empfehlungen des Sächsischen Lehrervereins

angeleitet, viele, viele gute Kinderbücher. (…)

Es war ein Konkurrenzkampf aus Liebe zu mir und es

war ein verbissener Kampf. Es war ein Drama mit drei Personen

und der letzte Akt fand, alljährlich, am Heiligabend statt.

Die Hauptrolle spielte ein kleiner Junge. Von seinem Talent

aus dem Stegreif hing es ab, ob das Stück eine Komödie oder

ein Trauerspiel wurde. Noch heute klopft mir, wenn ich daran

denke, das Herz bis in den Hals. (…)


legal reasons Eine

the extract Dresdner is

unfortunately Weihnachtsnot

available geschichte von

online Erich


Ich stand also am Küchenfenster und blickte in die Fenster gegenüber.

Hier und dort zündete man schon die Kerzen an. Der

Schnee auf der Straße glänzte im Laternenlicht. Weihnachtslieder

erklangen. Im Ofen prasselte das Feuer, aber ich fror.

Es duftete nach Rosinenstollen, Vanillezucker und Zitronat.

Doch mir war elend zumute. (…)

Und dann hörte ich meine Mutter rufen: »Jetzt kannst

du kommen!« Ich ergriff die hübsch eingewickelten Geschenke

für die beiden und trat in den Flur. Die Zimmertür stand

offen. Der Christbaum strahlte. Vater und Mutter hatten sich

links und rechts vom Tisch postiert, jeder neben seine Gaben,

als sei das Zimmer samt dem Fest halbiert. »Oh«, sagte ich,

»wie schön!«, und meinte beide Hälften. Ich hielt mich noch

in der nähe der Tür, sodass mein

Versuch, glücklich zu lächeln,




unmissverständlich beiden galt.

Der Papa, mit der erloschnen Zigarre

im Munde, beschmunzelte

den firnisblanken Pferdestall.

Die Mama blickte triumphierend

auf das Gabengebirge zu

ihrer Rechten. Wir lächelten

zu dritt und überlächelten unsre

dreifache Unruhe. Doch ich konnte

nicht an der Tür stehen bleiben!

Ach, wenn ich allein gewesen wäre,

allein mit den Geschenken und

dem himmlischen Gefühl, doppelt

und aus zweifacher Liebe beschenkt

zu werden! Wie selig wär ich gewesen

und was für ein glückliches Kind! Doch

ich musste meine Rolle spielen, damit

das Weihnachtsstück gut ausgehe. Ich war

ein Diplomat, erwachsener als meine Eltern, und hatte dafür

Sorge zu tragen, dass unsre feierliche Dreierkonferenz unterm

Christbaum ohne Missklang verlief. (…)

Ich stand am Tisch und freute mich im Pendelverkehr. Ich

freute mich rechts, zur Freude meiner Mutter. Ich freute mich

an der linken Tischhälfte über den Pferdestall im Allgemeinen.

Dann freute ich mich wieder rechts, diesmal über den Rodelschlitten,

und dann wieder links, besonders über das Lederzeug.

Und noch einmal rechts, und noch einmal links, und

nirgends zu lange, und nirgends zu flüchtig. Ich freute mich

ehrlich und musste meine Freude zerlegen und zerlügen. Ich

gab beiden je einen Kuss auf die Backe. (…)

Nebenan, bei Grüttners, sangen sie »O du fröhliche, o du

selige, gnadenbringende Weihnachtszeit!« Mein Vater holte ein

Portemonnaie aus der Tasche, das er im Keller zugeschnitten

und genäht hatte, hielt es meiner Mutter hin und sagte: »Das

hätt ich ja beinahe vergessen!« Sie zeigte auf ihre Tischhälfte,

wo für ihn Socken, warme lange Unterhosen und ein Schlips

lagen. Manchmal fiel ihnen, erst wenn wir bei Würstchen und

Kartoffelsalat saßen, ein, dass sie vergessen hatten, einander ihre

Geschenke zu geben. Und meine Mutter meinte: »Das hat ja

Zeit bis nach dem Essen.«


Willkommen im Weihnachtsland

"Glück auf, Glück auf, der Steiger kommt!"

(Good luck, here comes the foreman!)


Soon noble metals are to be mined

again in a few spots in the Ore

Mountains, but in Freiberg the

heyday of mining has passed. So

why does the miners' guild carry


Dieter Joel: Because all the old

friends and colleagues come together

here. Lounging around on the sofa

at home, that's really not my cup

of tea.

Maximilian Götze: I was born into

this. My father studied mining here,

and is now involved in the association.

And I also think it's important

to keep traditions going, as they will

otherwise be forgotten. It simply belongs

to the


Mr. Joel, when did you start wearing

this uniform?

Joel: In 1991. I was an electrician

in the mining industry; nowadays

I look after the association's wardrobe.

The club has 440 members,

and almost 230 of them are joining

in in the parade. That's a whole

lot of trousers, jackets and swords.

If buttons fall off the members will

mercifully usually sew them back on


Maximilian, how long have you

been a member?

Götze: My mother made me my first

miner's uniform when I was three.

Joel: I can remember you back then:

You sat on the pavement in your

uniform and bashed away at the kerb

with a hammer. You probably wanted

to burrow in a mine shaft.

The traditions really come into

their own during the advent time.

Joel: We are on the road every weekend.

The highlight is our shift before

Christmas Eve. This used to be

the last shift before Christmas. Nobody

worked all that much, but spirits

were high. The foreman – who

was in charge of the pit – gathered

Photos: Sebastian Arlt


There are six decades between them: Dieter Joel (77) and

Maximilian Götze (16), members of the historical "Freiberg

Berg- und Hüttenknappschaft", the miners' guild, on the

traditional last mining shift on Christmas Eve and the

not-very-sophisticated mining vocabulary.

With sword, pit hat and uniform: Dieter

Joel (far left) and Maximilian Götze (3rd

from the right) with comrades in the

Freiberg guild room.

Dates for Christmas Eve shifts in the

Ore Mountains are available at


Tzscherper: little leather bags

that the miners used to use for

their "Tzscherper knife", which

they would use to check the condition

of the wooden construction

in the mine.

his miners together. Everyone would

bring something to eat from home.

Götze: That's what it is that makes

the Christmas Eve shift – food, food,


Joel: But something happens before

that: On the Saturday before the second

Sunday in advent we get together

at 5 in the afternoon and then the

parade starts. We parade through the

town to the Nikolai Church, and we

pay our respects to the Freibergers in

the Albert Park and two bands play.

Götze: Then we stand on the stairs

outside, sing the foreman's song and

the whole audience joins in. "Glück

auf, Glück auf, der Steiger kommt!"

When you have such a large crowd

singing the song – it's exhilarating.

And the food?

Joel: That's afterwards, when we are

among ourselves. This is when the

new colleagues join if they can answer

three questions: their name,

their status and their life motto.

Then they have to drink a beer with

the examiner – to show that they can

handle jumping over the bum leather


Sorry, over what?

Joel: Miners used to wear a kind of

leather apron, but for the back. It

was so that the seat of your trousers

didn't get wet. Do you see? The term

is a little direct, but then miners

aren't really all that genteel.

So what do you keep in these little

bags at the front on your belt?

Götze: The Tzscherper is part of the

uniform. Miners used to keep things

in it to make light, like matches,

hemp or flint. Some people put their

mobile in it now, or their camera.

My bag is empty at the moment.

Joel: I've got a pestle and a knife in

mine, just like the chief blaster used

to have. And some medicine for

headache. It's a pure coincidence

that it looks like liqueur.


Welcome to the Christmas Wonderland


Three stories

about Cinderella

40 years ago, the Christmas

cult film "Three

gifts for Cinderella"

was shot at the Moritzburg

Castle. And visitors

are still swept away by

the fairytale ambience

in the castle.

Erich Weber,

now 69, likes the

music, alongside

the window scene.

"Well? Have you seen my window?", I

ask everyone, when "Cinderella" came

on the TV. You can see it for a few seconds

in one of the scenes. Lit up, which

earned me 50 marks – which was a lot

of money back then. I was working as a

decorator in the castle and had a flat at

the top in the tower. The film team put

a floodlight in my room and covered

the window with parchment so that the

old castle didn't look as if nobody lived

there. And they paid rent to do that.

We sometimes sat in the café with Rolf

Hoppe, who played the king, and the

prince and the princess in the shooting

breaks. Everyone was swooning about

the pretty princess afterwards – but unfortunately

she never visited again."

Marion Becker,

now 65, likes


best about


"At the start of the seventies I often played

a double if they needed riders during the

filming. "Cinderella" wasn't anything special

really. I was waiting with Kalif, an old

circus horse at the top of the steps. I was

waiting for the signal to go down the steps

for the escape scene and then ride through

the gate. The stairs were covered in ice, Kalif

didn't want to gallop, and you can see in

the film that I really had to drive him on. I

was 25 back then and had a normal figure,

but the actress was very slight. So we had to

leave Cinderella's costume open at the back

– but nobody noticed because I was wearing

a cape over it. My husband always used to

watch the film at least five times at Christmas

until I told him: "Do you know what? I

can't stand to watch it any more!"

Photos: Sebastian Arlt; Moritzburg Castle and Fasanenschlösschen (Pheasant

Castle) /Gabriele Hilsky; DEFA-Stiftung, Jaromir Komarek


Idyllic comfort, love and Christmas:

The beautiful Cinderella finds her

prince charming (below), with the

help of three hazelnuts (centre bottom).

Rolf Hoppe and Karin Lesch

played the old royal couple (bottom)

in an unforgettably funny performance.

A special exhibition at the

Moritzburg castle is running until 2

March to celebrate the filming and

the myth of Cinderella.

For more information, see



Margitta Hensel,

48, is the curator

for the Cinderella

exhibition. Her

favourite parts are

where the king and

queen fight like an

old couple.

"I don't know how many proposals of marriage have been

made on those steps. There was once even a sandal at the

bottom of the steps with a telephone number and the note:

"Prince charming wanted". We are making the fans' affinity

with the film the subject of this year's exhibition. The

film is not only well made, it seems to get under your skin

and to awaken longing. Love, childlike naivety, humour, a

world intact – these are things that people clearly feel are

missing nowadays. Interestingly the film makers hardly use

any special effects, which is why the film comes across as

realistic, but has a fairytale feel about it. The 40 original

costumes on show are the highlight for many of the visitors.

For decades there was hardly any interest in the film

props – then the fans started researching what had happened

to the costumes. Ta dah! Many of them were still

hanging up in the studios in the Czech Republic. Some of

them have even taken on the status of national cultural assets

over there."

Welcome to the Christmas Wonderland


Discovering what it

means to be slow: anyone

walking into Ekkard

Seidl's workshop in Markneukirchen


falls in pace with the

rhythm of the place. It is

only with this peace and

quiet that the 50-year old

violin maker can create

his bespoke instruments.

The singing

soul of wood











The most exciting thing in my work is to

hear one of my violins in a concert. It is only

then that its character unfolds, or you

could say where it bares its soul. Because

every instrument has a soul – and every violin

too, of course. And its soul comes from

various sources: First of all, it is in the wood

it is made from. Then the violin builder

puts part of his own soul into it. And then

the musicians do the same – and of course,

the composers, whose works are played on

the instruments. I usually have to travel to

hear my violins: My customers come from

far afield and many play in symphony orchestras.

I have very few customers from this region.

Despite the fact that we have a great musical

tradition in the Vogtland... and not only

at Christmas. We also have a long history

of producing instruments: Anyone in the

Vogtland who wants to play music usually

has someone in the family who can build

him a violin, trumpet or flute. If a coach

full of musicians stopped here, every musician

on board would be able to find a master

craftsman here to build him an instrument.

Markneukirchen is unique in this


As well as contact with good colleagues,

this area gives me the peace and quiet that I

need for the 200 working hours it takes to

make a violin. I could never work in a town.

I see myself as an artisan: 95% of my work

is precision handicraft, and the other 5%

is difficult to describe in words. You know,

when I build a violin, there are a lot of decisions

I have to make: Which piece of wood

should I choose? What shape should it be,

what should the proportions be? The combination

determines what sort of instrument

I will have made in the end.

My violins are almost all special orders

for musicians. Before I start, I ideally need

to make an accurate picture of how they

play. Most customers come to me in the

Vogtland to my little workshop for this. To

offer them the best possible service, I need a

good ear, all my experience from 34 years of

work – and a lot of empathy. But at the end

of the day my violins are just objects: art is

a separate entity in its own right; violins are

used, they are played on. I am a toy maker,

as it were.

Photos: Sebastian Arlt


Welcome to the Christmas Wonderland


lights up

Stopping and staring in wonder – always

a good idea when you see the

rebuilt Dresden Frauenkirche. For

the last few years there is another

reason to stop piously in front of the

church, even in winter, and to drink

a mulled wine. The "Advent on the

Neumarkt" recreates the time between

1830 and 1920.

There is no stress and no hustle and

bustle at the historic Christmas market.

Instead it is a haven of high

quality craftsmanship, delicacies and

a nativity scene with real animals.


A little window every day

House visit on the culture scene:

Dresden's Neustadt celebrates advent

in its own unique way.


Photos: Sebastian Arlt; Ulla Wacker; E+ / Getty Images

Oksana Rucker

(38; left) and

Ulla Wacker (41)

feel that the Neustadt

has to stay raw

and creative. With

their "Advenster",

they transform the

Dresden culture hotspot

into a walk-in

advent calender in


When little chocolate Father Christmas figures

start making an appearance in the supermarkets

in late summer, Ulla Wacker

and Oksana Rucker know that the time has

come to start preparing the windows. The

Dresden ladies

are members of the "Advenster", a group

that was founded ten years ago, and which

decorates a different window in the Dresden

Neustadt with art every day in December.

It started with set decorators building

the building site in front of their houses in

miniature on the window sill, with a mini

digger which would drive when you pressed

on a button. Later on it was not only windows,

but doors that opened. And what

started as a slightly different art exhibition

became a happening with concerts, film

showings and performance art. Nobody

knew what would happen behind the doors

and windows at 6 in the evening. But one

thing was sure: it won't have anything to do

with sweet, touchy-feely sentimentalism.

The Neustadt, Dresden's culture hotspot:

In the 90s and the early noughties "grandmothers,

students, ex-convicts and artists"

lived here, explain Wacker and Rucker.

When they talk about how it was back then,

they start to rave about it. But the minute

you mention the word "gentrification" they

start to rant – and that in itself would be a

good Advenster performance. High earners

and investors have also discovered the Neustadt.

The founding "Advenster" dispersed at

some point, and the second generation took

over. Wacker coordinates various neighbouring

initiatives in the district hall, and

Rucker came up with the idea of the "Advenster"

one day when she was picking up

her daughter from nursery school. "There

was something conspiratory about it. And

the gang got together, and then something

happened." Despite all the changes, there is

one thing the two are sure about: "The Neustadt

will always be the Neu-stadt." How

it is going to look in advent is still a secret.

But the dates and addresses aren't. They are

available at www.advenster.de

Welcome to the Christmas Wonderland


A girl, a man made of

wood and a fairy tale:

The dream world of

the "Nutcracker" was

transferred to Dresden

to be performed

by the Semperoper.

31-year old Anna

Merkulova is the star

of the piece by

Peter Tschaikowsky.


Photos: Sebastian Arlt; Costin Radu

Magic in a


Ukrainian dancer

Anna Merkulova

dances Marie in the


The role is one she knows

well. But Christmas in

Saxony is something she

had to get to know.

Miss Merkulova, what is special about the Dresden production of

the "Nutcracker"?

"The Nutcracker" is everywhere, wherever you go in December. Even

in Miami, where half the town is sitting on the beach or around a

BBQ in the 30 degree heat. Here in Dresden, it's different: the atmosphere

outside the opera and on the stage complement each other perfectly,

even down to the production design. Our "Nutcracker" starts

on the Striezelmarkt, and also moves to the Zwinger Palace – that's

Christmas in its purest form!

You come from the Ukraine. Was it difficult for you to get used to

Christmas in Dresden?

When you are standing at a mulled wine stand after work with your

colleagues, it's easy to get used to it. But you are right: in Saxony they

celebrate Christmas in a very unique way.

How would you describe it?

In the Ukraine we have presents at New Year, and then Christmas is

on the 6th and 7th January. The idea of decorating the whole town

a month beforehand, doing up every shop window and putting up

thousands of lights – that's not something we know, even if it has been

starting to catch on over there over the last few years. When my mother

visits Dresden at Christmas time, she can't get enough of the atmosphere.

I gave her a nutcracker as a present. And my father really

wants a pyramid now.

You dance Marie, a young girl, who is drawn into a dream world.

Marie is open, she believes in miracles and dreams. You should never

confuse dancers and actors with the roles that they play. But I must

admit, I think Marie is a little like me.

In what way?

I also believe in the power of magic. And Christmas is the best example

of that, isn't it? You may be religious and then the biblical story is

the most important part of Christmas for you. But you also may see

Christmas simply as a family celebration. Whatever Christmas means

to you: if you give it a chance, you will be enchanted. You just have

to let it work its magic – and I like being enchanted. But, once when

I was playing the "Nutcracker" here in Dresden, it was almost too


What happened?

We were dancing a scene in the snow storm – it's just like a fairy tale

– I just love it! Last year – we must have already done abut 15 performances

of the "Nutcracker", in the middle of the last performance

of the season, I suddenly felt the tears running down my cheeks. It

wasn't that easy to carry on dancing then.

A lot of families come to see the "Nutcracker". Do you dance differently

for children?

You have to act a bit more, but this piece does actually lend itself very

well to that. And you mustn't let yourself be distracted if the audience

is a bit more animated. But I have known it for a very, very long time:

The first ballet role I ever played, was the one I am dancing now: Marie

in the "Nutcracker". I was ten years old.


Welcome to the Christmas Wonderland

The secret

of the strict


Grandmother Zeidler

traditionally bakes her

own Christstollen

using a secret recipe

with a dark history.


Of course, it is a

success. Christine

Zeidler presents the

first Christstollen she

has ever made in her

own kitchen – she

has always gone to

the local bakehouse


It's a good job that Berta Höntzsch was guilty of a minor

theft back in 1902. And it is also a little bit understandable:

Her ladyship, the Princess von Reuß from

Castle Hermsdorf was strict and never let the staff get

away with anything. Berta was only 18 and was employed

as a maid when she decided to take her revenge

one day and secretly crept into the castle kitchens. She

grabbed a scrap of paper and a pen and jotted down

the secret recipe for the Christstollen – preserving it for


Nowadays Christine Zeidler is measuring the ingredients

in her kitchen in Coswig near Dresden, and

says: "A Stollen like the aristocracy used to make –

compared with this, the one from my mother tasted

like stale breadrolls." Christine Zeidler, 77, married the

grandson of the thieving Berta. And she has been baking

the Stollen with the aristocratic recipe since 1954.

Her husband's grandmother gave it to her the year she

got married.

Buying a Christstollen at the baker – for Christine

Zeidler this is just as alien a concept as buying carvings

"made in China". So over the last 60 years she packs all

her ingredients together on the 2nd or 3rd November

every year, and makes her way to the baker at the bottom

of the street. The women (and some men) from

the region meet there and work on their doughs, everyone

with their own ingredients and their own recipe.

The kitchens at home were too small; and anyway, only

the baker has the ideal mixture of moisture and heat in

the oven. "We don't gossip... we concentrate hard on

our work", says Christine Zeidler. Baking Stollen is serious

business in the Dresden region.

And a large-scale project: "I always end up baking 16

to 24 pounds for the whole family", says Zeidler as she

kneads the dough for the Stollen in her own kitchen –

a one off, especially to oblige her guest. She made up

the yeasted dough at six in the morning and now she

can add the raisins, orange and lemon peel, ground almonds

and lots of butter. Then the dough has to rise

for half an hour. To make sure that the baker doesn't

mix up the doughs, everyone puts a little metal sign into

the dough with the family's name on it.

The baker then shapes the loaves; their shape is

supposed to resemble baby Jesus . When they are baked

– "not too dark, more golden brown, a good Striezel

must be nice and moist" – Mrs Zeidler packs her yield

of at least 18 Stollen into two washing baskets and carries

them round to her son. He puts them on the balcony

for a couple of days to rest before they are buttered

and given a generous dusting of icing sugar.

Grandmother Zeidler isn't that far yet in her kitchen

in Coswig – she sends out a quick prayer. "Dear

God. Let it taste good." While the Stollen is baking

in the oven, she tells me about when she was young,

growing up in bombed out Dresden. And she tells me

that during the GDR East Germany times, you could

never be quite sure if it really was candied orange peel

in the packet, or if it was just "candied tomatoes", as

some people used to joke.

Of course, the Stollen is not only good, it is excellent,

and there is a wonderful aroma as Mrs Zeidler

takes it out of the oven. Must be the royal recipe. And

if divine intervention really was necessary, God has

clearly long since forgiven the minor theft committed

by Berta Höntzsch.

Photos: Sebastian Arlt



recipe from the

Princess of ReuSS

(Quantities significantly reduced)


1.2 kg flour

1 sachet yeast

1 cup warm milk

350 g butter

100 g margarine

150 g ghee (clarified butter)

125 g sugar

50 g bitter almonds (available in pharmacies,

health food shops, and also in supermarkets

at Christmas time; alternatively

use a few drops of bitter almond extract)

2 sachets of vanilla sugar, mixed with the

zest of 1 lemon

300 g ground almonds

150 g candied lemon peel and 150 g candied

orange peel

600 g raisins soaked in rum


125 g melted butter

and lots and lots of icing sugar


Striezel: The Dresden

word for Christstollen,

which also gave its name

to the famous Striezelmarkt


Sift the flour into a bowl and make a

well in the centre. Break in the yeast

and pour over the lukewarm milk.

Slowly mix in the flour with a spoon,

leave the dough to rest at room temperature

for half an hour.

Then add the butter, margarine and

ghee and all other ingredients except

the raisins and kneed the dough until

it is springy and elastic. Mix in

the raisins and leave the dough to

rest for another hour.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Press out the dough to form an

oblong shape, score down the middle

and make little holes in it, with a

knitting needle for example.

Bake for 90 minutes. When a needle

put into the dough no longer sticks

and the crust is golden brown, take

it out of the oven.

Leave to rest for a while. Prick holes

all over with the needle and brush

with the melted butter. Generously

sprinkle over icing sugar – it can be a

whole centimetre thick!

Welcome to the Christmas Wonderland

If you ask the locals which is the best

Christmas market in the free state,

you should expect to hear a variety

of different answers.

This is because there are almost more

Christmas markets in Saxony than

there are needles on a Christmas

tree. To make the choice a little simpler

there are ten suggestions on this

page for a trip to the region between

Vogtland and Upper Lusatia. Some

are world famous (like the one in

Seiffen, here in the picture), others

are a secret – but they are all leisurely

and cosy.


579th Striezelmarkt



The first Christmas

meat market was

held here in 1384.

Other stalls were

added over the centuries.

Starting on

29 November, the

"Budyske hodowne

wiki", as it is called

in Sorbian, will be

held for the 629th



Christmas market

A twelve metre

high pyramid, and

oversized musical

box and a five

metre high candle

arch form the centre

of the market

in Chemnitz. And

clustered around it

are some 200 stalls,

opening on 29th


If there were a separate


government in Saxony,

this would

be its parliament.

The oldest German

Christmas market

is opened on 27th

November, and on

the 7th December

the Christmas cake

that gives it its name

will be celebrated

at the 20th Stollen




Mining traditions

come to life starting

on the first of advent

on the Obermarkt.


can find out about

mining in a workshop,

the "smelter"

doesn't have liquid

ore in his kettle any

more – just mulled





The Christ Child

floats in as the bells

chime and choirs

sing on the town

hall steps. From the

6 December there

is music from Silesia

and Bohemia

sounding out between

the stalls.


Christmas market

at the fortress

"Königstein – a

winter fairytale", is

the motto on the

advent weekends on

the fortress. The old

ruins are the perfect

backdrop for the

historical and romantic


Photo: Rainer Weisflog





The High Gothic

town hall transforms

into an advent

calendar, and

the Renaissance

town houses around

it form a perfect

backdrop for the

Christmas market,

which starts on 29



Christmas market

In Plauen not only

a large number

of stalls open

on 26 November,

but so too does

the "Christkindl

Postamt", the

Christmas postoffice;

open for the

business of collecting

children's letters

to Santa.


Family Christmas



Radebeul's most

beautiful village

centre, lights up on

the first three advent

weekends: decorated

stalls, a pathway

of light and a

glowing nativity

scene give the place



Christmas market

The word "market"

would be an understatement:

The hub

of folk art in the

Ore Mountains becomes

a Christmas

village on 30th November.

On 14 December

the miners

parade through the


Welcome to the Christmas Wonderland

The home of


Dresdner Stollen Maiden © ZZDD

Go Tell iT on The mounTains! ChrisTmas in saxony is a feasT for The senses.

From the Görlitz Christkindelmarkt Christmas market to the Torgau Fairy-tale Christmas market

and the Dresden Striezel Christmas market, we enchant visitors from all over the world.

With regional specialities, such as Pulsnitz gingerbread or the traditional German Christmas

cake, Christstollen, from the hands of this year’s Dresden Stollen Maiden, Friederike Pohl.

And with living traditions, such as the artisan carvings from the Ore Mountains. To find out

what else is in store to get you into the Christmas spirit, visit www.simply-saxony.com

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