What Is The German Candle Carousel Called?

German candle carousels are decorative mechanical objects that were popular in Germany in the 1800s. They consist of a central axis with decorated arms that radiate outward, holding candles or lighting. When wound up, candle carousels spin the candles around in a circle, creating a mesmerizing effect.

Candle carousels originated as early as the late 1700s in Germany, which had a thriving craft culture around automatons, mechanical toys, clocks, and decorative objects. The carousels combined beautiful decoration and mechanics, showcasing the artistry and technical skill of German craftsmen. At the peak of their popularity in the mid to late 1800s, candle carousels graced many upper and middle class German households.

While less common today, German candle carousels remain a delightful example of historic German folk art and engineering. Their pleasing aesthetic and hypnotic motion continue to capture the imagination. This article will explore their history, construction, and enduring legacy.


The German candle carousel originated in the Erzgebirge region of Germany in the mid-1800s. This mountainous area had a long tradition of mining and metalwork, which lent itself well to the intricate craftsmanship required for candle carousels.

The earliest known candle carousels were designed and built by craftsmen in the village of Seiffen in the 1850s. Seiffen had an established woodcarving industry, and artisans began applying their skills to create elaborate mechanical candle holders to brighten up the long German winters.

The candle carousels were initially made from wood and powered by water wheels or flat metal disks that rotated from the heat of the candle flames. Over time, the designs evolved to incorporate electric motors and increasingly complex lighting and motion elements.

By the late 1800s, Seiffen had cemented its reputation as the cradle of the German candle carousel. Demand grew rapidly throughout Germany and Europe as the carousels were exported from the Erzgebirge region. This launched Seiffen as the center of candle carousel production, a status it retains today.


The German candle carousel, known as a Lichterkranz in German, holds deep symbolic meaning and significance in German culture. The carousel represents togetherness, hope, and the continuity of life.

The circular shape symbolizes unity, wholeness, and the circle of life. As the candles slowly rotate around the carousel, it represents the passage of time and the seasons. The flickering candle flames signify warmth, light, and the human spirit enduring even in dark times.

In many German households, the candle carousel is displayed throughout the Advent season leading up to Christmas. The four candles traditionally represent the four weeks of Advent. Lighting a new candle each Sunday embodies the slowly increasing anticipation and hope as Christmas draws nearer.

Beyond Christmas, the carousel evokes notions of harmony, community, and continuity. As the candles revolve in a continuous loop, they reflect the eternal cycle of life, death, and rebirth. The interconnectedness of the candle holders symbolizes how our lives are all bound together.

With its beautifully carved wooden base and slowly rotating candles, the German candle carousel remains a beloved tradition that carries deep cultural meaning and symbolism for the German people.


German candle carousels, known as Lichterkette or Lichterbogen in German, have a distinctive structural design. They typically consist of a circular or arched metal frame, reminiscent of a crown or wreath. Attached to the frame are holders for candles, usually made of curved metal or wire. The candles are spaced evenly around the frame to create a glowing ring or semicircle of lights.

The size of the frame varies, with diameters ranging from one to three feet typically. Larger carousels may have a diameter of six feet or more. The frame is usually designed to rotate or spin slowly while the candles are lit. This gentle motion showcases the flickering candlelight in an eye-catching display.

From a structural engineering perspective, the frame must be sturdy yet lightweight. It needs to withstand continuous motion over hours of operation. At the same time, it cannot be too heavy or the spinning apparatus would require excessive power. The curvature and diameter of the frame are also factors in its rotational stability.

Overall, the combination of the circular or arched frame, rotating motion, and evenly-spaced candles creates a distinctive visual look. This elegant structure elevates a German candle carousel beyond just a light source, transforming it into an artistic decorative element.


German candle carousels rotate mechanically due to precisely engineered gear systems. At the base of the carousel is a heavy weighted disk attached to a winding mechanism. As the disk slowly unwinds under its own weight, it turns a drive gear connected to the carousel’s central axle. This in turn rotates the decorative platform and figures above. The gear ratio regulates the speed, enabling the carousel to gently turn for hours from a single winding.
inside view of an antique german candle carousel showing the intricate gears that allow it to slowly rotate.

The carousel motion drives another intricate series of gears that operate the lighting. Small pins extend from rotating drive gears to gently lift and lower arms holding candles or oil lamps. This causes the lighting to sinusoidally brighten and dim as the carousel revolves, creating a visually stunning effect. The lighting mechanisms are designed to avoid jarring motions, providing smooth illumination transitions synchronized to the carousel’s rotation.

The mechanical clockwork and gearing required precision metalwork when first developed in the 1800s. Maintaining and restoring these complex mechanisms is one of the challenges in preserving antique German candle carousels today. The graceful interaction of gears, motion, and lighting is a testament to the exceptional engineering and craftsmanship embodied in these carousels.


German candle carousels demonstrate incredible artistry and skill in their creation. Each one is handmade from start to finish by master craftspeople who have perfected the specialized techniques required.

The candle holders are lathe-turned from quality hardwoods like oak, walnut, cherry and maple. The woodworkers expertly shape the wood into the ornate curled arms, columns, and center rings. The surfaces are then hand-finished and polished to a smooth luster.

The electric wiring is installed with care, keeping the cords hidden within the carousel’s frame. Skilled metal workers forge the metal candle sockets and light fixtures from brass and other metals.

Finally, the craftspeople hand-assemble each piece together and test the mechanisms. Fine attention to detail ensures the carousel rotates smoothly and the lighting operates flawlessly.

From the selection of quality materials to the intricate fabrication, these candle carousels exemplify German craftsmanship and dedication to excellence.

Popular Models

The candle carousel has seen many popular and prized styles over the years. Some of the most well-known models include:

Schwibbogen – Originating in the Ore Mountains of Germany in the 18th century, Schwibbogen are traditional carved wooden candle arches. They often depict mining scenes and Biblical stories. The intricate and elaborate carvings make Schwibbogen some of the most prized candle carousels.

Pyramid – Pyramid candle carousels emerged in the late 19th century. They feature a tiered wooden pyramid structure decorated with paper cones and candles. Pyramids represent a simpler, more affordable style that became widespread.

Nussknacker – Meaning “nutcracker” in German, Nussknacker carousels portray nutcracker figures and characters. Introduced in the Erzgebirge region in the late 1800s, Nussknacker carousels combine woodcarving and paper maché artistry.

Bergwerk – The Bergwerk or “mine” carousels recreate mining scenes from the Ore Mountains. With hand-carved wooden miners, tunnels, and mine carts, they exemplify superb German craftsmanship.

Modern Revival

In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in German candle carousels, resulting in their continued production today. After a period of declining popularity in the mid-20th century, these charming music boxes have found appreciation again among collectors, craftspeople, and families looking to pass down an heirloom.

Several small manufacturers in Germany have started producing new candle carousels using traditional designs and methods. While staying true to the original style, some incorporate modern twists like LED lights instead of real candles. There is also a growing community of hobbyists who build their own carousels from kits or raw materials.

High-end contemporary versions made by master craftsmen can cost thousands of dollars. More affordable mass-produced models are available as well. Custom and personalized orders allow people to create carousels with their choice of figurines, colors, and music. The Internet has enabled this renewed interest by making it easier for enthusiasts around the world to connect, share information, and purchase handmade carousels.

Thanks to their classic beauty and nostalgic charm, German candle carousels seem poised to delight children and adults for generations to come. Their revival is a testament to the enduring magic of these spinning musical boxes.

Cultural Significance

German candle carousels (also known as Schwibbogen) hold a special place in German Christmas tradition and culture. They originated in the mining regions of Saxony in the 18th century as a symbol of hope and prosperity during the winter months. The carvings and motifs reflect local history and folklore.

For many German families, especially in eastern and southern Germany, displaying a candle carousel is an essential part of their Christmas decorations and holiday celebrations. Parents pass down their candle carousels from generation to generation as family heirlooms. The carvings bring back childhood memories and represent family connections.

Beyond personal family traditions, candle carousels have become ingrained in wider German culture. Their distinctive shape and decorations are instantly recognizable as a symbol of Christmas to Germans and tourists alike. Many Christmas markets sell hand-carved Schwibbogen as prized traditional handicrafts. The carousels exemplify German virtues of meticulous quality, craftsmanship, and attention to detail.

While the candle carousel has its origins centuries ago, it remains meaningful today as both a decoration and cultural icon representing German Christmas heritage. The traditional carvings and regional motifs are a reflection of Germany’s diverse histories and customs.


The traditional German candle carousel has delighted people for centuries with its charming design and playful motion. Crafted by skilled artisans, it serves not just as a candleholder but as decorative folk art. Spinning slowly as the heat from the candles causes the wheel to turn, the carousel is an enchanting sight that evokes feelings of nostalgia and wonder.

While electric lighting has made candle carousels less practical, their handmade designs and old-world aesthetic remain appealing today. As both an engineering marvel and a showpiece, the German candle carousel occupies a special place in the country’s cultural history. Its revival in modern times pays homage to the artistry and ingenuity that brought warmth and beauty to so many households in generations past.

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