Mission Starlight. The Herrnhuter Sterne Manufacture

Herrnhuter SterneHerrnhuter Sterne

The Herrnhut Star is considered the origin of all Christmas stars. Conceived more than 180 years ago on the eastern edge of the republic as a geometric figure for mathematics lessons, today it shines around the globe and brings anticipation and contemplation into the pre-Christmas living rooms of those who own it.

A success story. Told again and again with pleasure

"Our stars are our message," Sales Manager Jens Ruppert tells us enthusiastically as he leads visitors through the operating rooms of the company building, which was newly constructed in 2010. This is where manual labor meets tradition. 200 employees work here on a piecework basis toward the common goal of festive glow. They cut paper and plastic foils, punch, fold and glue - and thus breathe life into the undisputed number one among the Christmas stars, one jag after the other. In the process, they demonstrate a precision and speed that amazes every visitor. According to the staff, it can take an entire year to perfect just one of the many steps on the way to a complete star so that it meets the company's high quality criteria.

"Our secret is that our products are well illuminated," Jens Ruppert reveals, switching on the light inside a white-and-red demonstration object. This is because, unlike many other models on the market, the Herrnhut Star not only shines well in the center, but is characterized by uniform luminosity from the core to the tip. The reason for this is the type of paper used, which is only produced in this design by two manufacturers in the whole of Europe. Herrnhuter Sterne GmbH sometimes has to put up with long waiting times in order to be able to process this paper, but its success proves the company right.

750,000 stars currently leave the workshop, affectionately christened "Sternelei" by the employees, every year - and the trend is rising. And regardless of their diameter and whether they are made of paper or polypropylene suitable for outdoor use: They all have the traditional 25 prongs - 17 quadrilateral and eight triangular - placed on a basic shape that mathematics calls a rhombic cuboctahedron and that belongs to the Archimedean solids.

The shape is closely linked to the history of the company, which still belongs to the Evangelical Brethren Union (EBU). The EBU, also called the Moravian Church of the Brethren, is a Protestant church and thus affiliated with the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and at the same time a guest member of the Association of Protestant Free Churches (VEF). Thus, it has an intermediate position between national churches and free churches.

Starting in the 18th century, the Moravian Church of the Brethren made a name for itself with international missionary activities. The first to assemble a Herrnhut Star were the children of these very missionaries, who often had to spend the pre-Christmas period away from their parents in their home boarding school. At that time, a teacher had the ingenious idea of using geometry to defy the burgeoning longing of his protégés. In 1897, the resourceful businessman Pieter Hendrik Verbeek finally constructed the first composable star and sold it through the company's own missionary bookshop.

Today, Herrnhuter Sterne GmbH offers a whole 80 variants of its interpretation of the "Star of Bethlehem". In addition, there are spare parts and a number of accessories: LEDs, cables, clips - everything you need to keep your star in good shape over the years. After all, once purchased, a Herrnhut star should shine for at least a lifetime. That, explains Jens Ruppert, is an important part of the company's sustainability-oriented philosophy. "We don't think much of the stars being thrown away at some point. That's why we offer everything to keep them repairable."

Even with age-old models, the company strives to help with repairs that become due. The annual reassembly, however, is still the responsibility of the buyer and his family. A pre-Christmas ritual that, according to Jens Ruppert, simply belongs to it and that real lovers of the Herrnhuter Sterne also appreciate very much. "We are pleased that the tradition of building stars is still lived today. That families just sit down and do a contemplative activity together. That's exactly how Christmas should be."