Dreaming of an Artisanal Christmas – by Ann Mah (New York Times – December 18, 2019)


A Southern California native went looking for an old-fashioned Christmas. She found it in the “Christmas ornament town” of Seiffen, tucked in Germany’s Ore Mountains.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had this image of Christmas: a village nestled in a snowy valley, candlelit windows glowing against a night sky. I’m not sure where it came from. Growing up in sunny Southern California, my family strung lights on the palm trees in our yard and went to the beach on Christmas Eve. Most kids know about Santa’s sleigh, but I believed he traveled on a magic speedboat.

As an adult, I’ve searched for that old-fashioned Christmas, one of snow-tipped Yuletide cheer, sleigh rides, sugarplums and freshly cut pine trees trimmed with handcrafted ornaments. Though I visited the Christmas markets in European capitals like London, Paris and Vienna, I never really found it.

Yes, the fairy lights twinkled, the sweet scent of mulled wine drifted, and sometimes snow crunched under my heels. Yes, the market stalls displayed an array of glittering ornaments for the tree and home. Yet upon closer inspection, the decorations were flimsy, their designs repeating from vendor to vendor as if they shared the same supplier: an industrial factory in a distant land.

Was my vision of Christmas a relic of fairy tales? Or could it still exist in a country that celebrates the Christmas tree with a traditional folk song, “O Tannenbaum”? When I recently reconnected with a high school friend who had moved to Germany, I asked her about German Christmas markets, expecting her to extol the storybook wonders of Nuremberg or Dresden.

Instead, she described a place I’d never heard of: the “Christmas ornament town” of Seiffen in the Erzgebirge, or Ore Mountains, a rural part of Saxony so devoted to holiday décor that Germans call it the “home of Christmas.” Could this be the artisanal Christmas idyll I’d been dreaming of? To find out, I spent a few days in mid-October in this far eastern region of the former German Democratic Republic near the Czech border, immersing myself in the Erzgebirge’s traditional folk art.

For the rest of this article: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/18/travel/christmas-ornament-town-seiffen-erzgebirge-ore-mountains.html