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Monday, December 26, 2016

The "Decorating With The Moravian Star" Story

The traditional Moravian Star
It was an ordinary day.  Day has just turned into night and Carol and I are taking a drive around Lancaster County, PA looking at all the Christmas decorations and lights that brighten the night time landscape.  When we lived in the Grandview Heights area of Manheim Township, we always filled the windows in our three-story Tudor house with candles as well as hanging a Moravian Star from the ceiling of our screened-in porch which was attached to the side of our home.  Really looked festive and went well with the design of the early 1900s home.  After we moved to our "Beach House" in the late 1990s, we decorated with lighted deer, colored lights on some of the trees and hanging the Moravian Star in the laundry room which has an octagonal window at the entrance to our home.  That, too, looked very festive.  
Display of Moravian Stars at a local grocery store.
Now, for those who have no idea what a Moravian Star may be, I will have to give you an explana- tion.  Lancaster County, Pennsyl- vania is home to one of the earliest Moravian Church congrega- tions in the United States.  The religious sect settled in the small town of nearby Lititz, Pennsylvania.  The Moravian Church began as a Protestant denomination in Bohemia and Moravia during the late 14th century with Jan Hus as the founder of the movement.  Hus rejected the Roman Catholic Church's teachings and wanted to return to more simpler religious practices.  He eventually was burned at the stake in 1415.  The first Moravian star is known to have originated in the 1830s at the Moravian Boys' School in Niesky, Germany.  
Trees and a Moravian Star for sale at the store.
It has been said that it was probably part of a lesson in geometry in the school's curriculum.  It was in 1880 that Pieter Verbeek, a graduate of the schjool in Niesky, opened a small bookstore where he sold the Moravian Stars.  Eventually the Verbeek family opened a factory in Herrnhut, Germany where they made the stars.  Evidently Pieter put his math lesson to good use.  The stars were adopted by the Moravian Church as a symbol of the birth of Jesus and represented the star of Bethlehem.  It is usually hung or displayed the first Sunday of Advent and remains displayed until Epiphany or the time of the coming of the Magi.  
Another variety of the Moravian Star.
The star reminds one of a regular star, but with many more points than a regular star.  The star can have anywhere from 20 to 110 points with the most common one a 26-point star composed of eighteen square and eight triangular cone-shaped points.  This shape is technically known as an augmented rhombicuboctahedron.  Each face of the geometric solid in the middle, the rhombicuboctahedron, serves as the base for the pyramid augmentations or starburst points.  The Moravian Star always has a symmetrical shape which is based on polyhedra.  Therefore, stars must have either 20, 26, 32,50, 64 or 110 points with the 26-point star the most popular.  In the 1990s one of the math teachers at Manheim Township High School, where I taught, gave her students the task of making a Moravian Star.  
A rather unique Moravian Star made from music sheets.
Tough to do since my son was in the class and I tried to help him with the project and finally gave up.  This admission comes from someone who at one time wanted to be a math teacher.  Well, the first Christmas tree at Williamsburg, Virginia was decorated with Moravian stars in 1842 that were made by a German immigrant who happened to teach at the college of William and Mary.  Perhaps he taught math!  The stars are beautiful.  I tried once again, a few years ago, to make one with a very thin and lightweight plastic material.  After an hour or so I gave up and headed to the store to purchase one.  It was only a few years ago that the Moravian Star that hung in the laundry room window bit the dust.  The plastic that it was made from became so fragile and brittle that I had to dispose of it because of safety issues.  As of now we have not replaced it, but did think of hanging one above our lighted deer which fill the hill to the side of our "Beach House".  Thought it would look neat with a big star above the deer, high in the tree.  We looked and found that a rather large star was going to cost us close to $150.  Will have to rethink that addition to our display.  The Moravian Star is an iconic symbol of the Christmas season in Lancaster County and if you have the chance to visit the area, you will be greeted with the beauty of the season.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  

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