My spirits brighten when I see the many symbols and decorations at this time of year as I’m driving around town. One symbol we sometimes see at this time of year is the multi-pointed Moravian Star. The Moravians are a small Christian sect with roots dating back to Czech Reformer John Hus (1369 – 1415). Hus was martyred for his opposition to the corruption he witnessed in the church of his day. In spite of persecution and banishment from their homeland, faithful members kept the church alive. They eventually found a home in Saxony, Germany. Saxony is where Martin launched the Protestant Reformation in 1517.
Missionaries on the Move
The Moravians sent out missionaries to many places. One of those places was Tuscarwas County, in Northeast Ohio. That county is one of the may places I’ve lived. In fact I once worked for an outdoor drama there entitled, “Trumpet in the Land.” The drama tells the story of Moravian missionaries who befriended Native Americans and tried to convert them to Christianity.
Moravians are peace-loving, cheerful people. One of their mottoes is, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” They like good food, good fellowship, and beautiful decorations. Moravian communities as far back as the mid-1700’s often displayed the pointed, lighted stars in home and shop windows.
Moravian Stars and Math Lessons
Moravian evolved from math lessons. Students were learning how to draw geometrical shapes, including the pyramid. There was a boarding school in Niesky, Germany where students practiced making various geometric shapes out of paper. The elongated pyramids must have inspired the geometry teacher and students to glue their pyramids together, forming what has become the Moravian star.
The length of a Moravian star point corresponds to the diameter of the body. Earlier versions of these stars came in many different colors. Today they are usually white or yellow. The Moravian stars are simple but attractive ornaments that, in their simplicity and plainness, reflect the Moravian sense of beauty.
Not Just for Moravians
Moravians have adopted the star as one of their most cherished objects, but others also appreciate them. Though they were not originally intended as an Advent/Christmas decoration, that is when we’re most likely to see them. Each Advent our church hangs one over our altar area at our Lutheran congregation in west Houston. Every year thousands of stars shine into the darkness, symbolizing our anticipation that the light of hope enters into the darkness. The points shine into all directions, uniting us in expectation with other people in all parts of the world.
My collection of church cookbooks includes one I picked up from Moravian neighbors when I lived in Ohio. Here’s a cookie recipe from the Moravian cookbook produced by the Women’s Fellowship of First Moravian Church in Dover, Ohio:
1 cup white sugar
1 cup shortening
1 cup molasses
Heat above ingredients until melted and put in spices. 1 tsp ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg; ½ tsp. cloves; ¼ tsp. salt
Let cool to touch. Add 1 level teaspoon soda dissolved in ¼ cup hot water. Stir well. Add flour to make stiff dough. (About 5 cups). Set dough in cold place overnight. Roll paper thin. Bake on greased cookie sheet 350 degrees about 6 to 10 minutes.
May each of us be the light that shines in the dark