The Stories behind the German Wooden Folk Art Figures - The Original Striezelkinder
The Striezel Children – the actual children not the figures – were from Dresden. That beautiful city has a most magnificent Christmas Market each year that is called the “Striezelmarkt”. And history has it that the poor children of Dresden would come to the Striezelmarkt during the Holiday Season to sell their wares to make a bit of money for their families. So they were children (kinder) of the Striezel market – hence Striezelkinder.
The word "Striezelmarkt" comes from "Strüzel" or "Stroczel", which was the name of a type of cake sold at the market, now famous as "Stollen" or "Christstollen". And to this day Dresden has their own particular version of Stollen - we offer it in our shop.
The Striezelkinder figures were created in Seiffen – one of the three major centres in the Erzgebirge Region of Germany where the traditional wood folk art is created. Long time director of the regional wood toys and wood arts school, Max Schanz, designed the figures in the early 1930’s. His inspiration was a woodcut done by artist Ludwig Richter in 1853. The woodcut image showed two children huddled against the cold waiting behind their little stand displaying the Pflaumentoffeln dolls that they had made. The sign on the stand reads “Ausverkauf wegen Geschäftsaufgabe” or “Going Out of Business Sale”.
Schanz’s original Striezelkinder figures won a gold medal at the World Expo in Paris in 1937 and they’ve won a place in my heart in 2017!
But not only is the story of the Striezel Children fascinating (and a little sad), the modern story of how and where these beautiful figures are made is also interesting: Gingerbread World is very excited to have teamed up with Seiffener Volkskunst to bring traditional German Nutcrackers, Smokers, Pyramids, Nativity Scenes and, of course, Striezelkinder to Canada. The artisans of Seiffener Volkskunst handcraft each wooden toy and figure – each tiny wooden detail is hand turned or carved and then painted by hand with a small brush.
The Striezelkinder are a true labour of love as there are so many small parts and types of materials including the fabric kerchief around the little girl’s head and the scarf around the boy’s neck. Pflaumentoffeln must be hard enough to make at full size – can you imagine assembling and painting these miniature versions on the boy’s tray? Pflaumentoffeln are little dolls made out of dried plums to resemble chimney sweeps. In Germany, as in many other countries, chimney sweeps are considered bringers of good luck.
So why am I so excited about these little figures? I think it’s that they remind me of travelling with my Oma to Germany as a little girl and visiting the Nuremberg Christkindlmarkt. Although the famous Christmas Market was crowded with shoppers and tourists we were able to get close enough to the stalls to see the wares for sale and I bought myself a pair of Zwetschgenmännle - not really like the Striezelkinder’s plum dolls but for a Canadian girl they’re close enough. The faces of Zwetschgenmännle dolls are made with prunes and their clothing is corn husks. And I probably didn’t buy them from a kid (Germany passed a law in 1910 making it illegal for children to work in the Christmas Markets)…but I was a kid!!
So I guess it's a little nostalgia and maybe just 'cause I'm a sucker for a sad story or maybe because I too am a shopkeeper and rue the day I might have to put out a sign. But in the meantime I am excited about the new Christmas Collections for 2017 - being unveiled August 21, 2017.
Owner @ Gingerbread World