Our Herrnhut Stars have a long history - follow us on a little journey through the centuries and decades and explore the stars' roots:
The Village of Herrnhut
The little east German village of Herrnhut, (meaning “under the Lord’s protection”) was founded at the beginning of the 18th century by the forefathers of the Moravian Church, who were forced to flee their homeland of Bohemia and Moravia due to religious persecution. Thanks to the shelter provided in 1722 by Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf to two Moravian families, the new settlement in the region of Oberlausitz was founded and quickly attracted many more Moravian refugees. They came from a variety of different regions, like Bohemia, Moravia, but also the kingdom of Germany and Scandinavia. As it can be seen on the drawing from 1753, Zinzendorfplatz, as we know it today, was the centre of the young settlement of Herrnhut. Around this central square we see the Congregational Hall (Church Meeting Room) and the Choir Houses, attached to which are the accommodations for the families. God’s acre is depicted in the foreground to the right, although in reality it lays north east of the town centre.
The Beginnings of the Moravian Church
The beginnings of the Moravian Church date back to 1457, when the Bohemian reformer Jan Hus formulated his objections to some of the practices of the Catholic Church. Due to increasing persecution, the Moravians eventually were forced to leave their home country to freely practice their Protestant beliefs. Soon, due to the religious refugees, the new town of Herrnhut became the centre of Christian renewal and the birthplace of the new “Herrnhuter Brüderunität” ("Unity of the Brethren"). In 1732 the first missionaries from the Moravian Church travelled into the farthest corners of the world to spread the Gospel and message of Jesus Christ. In many parts of Germany, further Moravian settlements, including churches and schools were founded.
Find more info on the Moravian Church and their faith and traditions in one of our blog posts.
The First Herrnhut Stars
Whilst their parents were dedicated to their missionary work in remote corners of the world, like the Caribbean, their children were sent back home to live and receive education in Moravian boarding schools. One of those schools became the “birthplace” of the first Herrnhut Star. At the beginning of the 19th century, the first star made of paper and cardboard was created by a teacher. He used the stars in mathematics class to help children better understand geometry: "After the battle of Waterloo in 1815, an officer appeared (...). As an educator, he understood the difficulties the students were having with mathematics. During some dreary November days, he built all kinds of shapes. These were wrapped with tissue paper and lit from within. The best were then finished with pyramid shaped points. The high point was gluing on the points on the evening before the first Sunday of Advent - a star was created." *
Therefore, the star making also comforted the homesick children, who were separated from their parents for a long time, in the Advent and Christmas season. Soon the tradition of star crafting on the first advent Sunday became a comforting Christmas tradition. The first ever crafted stars were coloured white and red – white for purity and red for the blood of Jesus Christ. They also, until this day, represent the star of Bethlehem.
The Founding of the Herrnhut Company
At the end of the 19th century, businessman Pieter Hendrik Verbeek invented the first star with 25 points attached to a metal frame. This innovation made it possible to take the star apart and ship it. The Herrnhut Mission Book Shop served as the first distributor. In 1925, the special structure of the stars - 17 points with a square base and 8 points with a triangular base - was finally patented and the Herrnhut Star company was founded. Since thi day, the Herrnhut manufacturer operates its headquarters in Herrnhut til this day.
Herrnhut stars have become more than just festive decorations for the Advent and Christmas season. They now grace apartments, gardens, churches, and public spaces, adding beauty all year round. Handmade for over 160 years, these stars come in various sizes and colors. While traditional paper stars are perfect for indoor use, weatherproof plastic stars are ideal for the outdoors. Available in classic red, yellow, and white, as well as blue, green, and multi-colored options, there's also an eagerly awaited special edition color unveiled each spring. Beyond Christmas, these versatile stars bring joy to any occasion or holiday, making them a delightful year-round decoration.