Country’s tallest Weihnachtspyramide goes up, and up, at Cullman County Museum

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Cullman’s new, beautifully-handcrafted Weihnachtspyramide (Christmas pyramid) stands next to the Cullman County Museum. (Maggie Darnell for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Cullman is now home to the country’s tallest Weihnachtspyramide, thanks to months of planning by the Cullman City Council and Cullman Parks, Recreation & Sports Tourism, and the handiwork of German company Erzgebirgiisehe Holzkunst Gahlenz in the German village of Gahlenz. Three men from the company, Tobias Fritzsch, Matthias Schiebold and Andreas Hausmann, traveled to Cullman this week to install the intricately-crafted 30-foot-fall symbol of Cullman’s German heritage.

The Weihnachtspyramide is a traditional German Christmas season decoration known in English as a “Christmas pyramid.” The device is a type of carousel which hung from a ceiling or set on a table, with carved wooden figures that can represent the holy family and nativity scene, angels, Christmas themes, and popular themes of regional culture. Descended from decorated lampstands of the 18th century which may also have helped give rise to the modern Christmas tree, the Christmas pyramid featured numerous candles, and later oil-burning lamps. Over time, the carved figures were set on moveable turntables powered by an overhead rotor which was turned by updrafts of hot air from the candles or lamps.

Cullman’s Christmas pyramid has the figures and the rotating carousels, and even features the rotor at the top, but it is no tabletop decoration. According to Mayor Woody Jacobs, Cullman’s Weihnachtspyramide is the largest in the United States. It was constructed on the grounds of the Cullman County Museum and towers over the nearby gazebo. Turning the giant rotor would take too much candle power, so this one is motorized.

The pyramid is six levels tall. The bottom level features a nativity scene: Mother Mary kneeling at the manger, Joseph with his lantern (representing the flight to Egypt which, according to tradition, began in the middle of the night), shepherds with their sheep and the wise men lined up to deliver their gifts. Above them one can find nutcrackers, snowmen, Santa, an angelic band and more. Jacobs said the completed pyramid includes a little local flavor as well. Hint: Look closely, and you’ll find Cullman’s founder, John Cullmann.

“I believe the Christmas pyramid is a great way to honor our German heritage,” said Jacobs. “I like that it’s handcrafted, from Germany. It’s very pretty and will be a great addition to our other downtown Christmas decorations.”

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Left to right are Tobias Fritzsch, Andreas Hausmann and Matthias Schiebold. (Janet Chandler for The Cullman Tribune)
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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com