Wait a minute - please what? Yes, you have read correctly! This is about a special kind of Christmas tree ornament. Traditional, handmade wooden toys, also known as Berchtesgadener War. A famous representative of it is the colorfully painted wooden horse with a whistle sticking out of its rear end instead of its tail: the Arschpfeiferl! Here you can learn more about the tradition and how it is revived today.

Stefan Grassl and his workshop

In his workshop in Ramsau, Stefan Grassl still makes the typical horses, plug-in birds, carriages and other figures in the typical Berchtesgaden style in rough wood carving: many small treasures, because each individual part is cut from local lime wood with the help of a template and refined with the carving knife. Finally, Grassl paints them in bright colors and stamps or dabs white embellishments. The rider even gets a feather ornament on his head. Only the small pipe at the rear of the steeds always remains unpainted. It is made of hard sycamore maple and gets its sound from a round piece of beech wood that is pushed into the finished turned and braided pipe. Each little "Arschpfeiferl" figurine consists of 18 parts!

The craftsmanship originated in long cold winters on the remote farms of the region

A brief history of the Berchtesgaden War

The Berchtesgaden craftsmanship of roughly carved and colorfully painted wooden toys looks back on a tradition of more than 500 years: As early as the 16th century, the small toys and wooden household goods were popular in the homeland. In addition, they were a real export hit: With towering Kraxen peddlers carried the Berchtesgadener War into the world.

But then the tin toy was invented and the success streak of the Berchtesgadener War seemed to come to an end. But fortunately, the artist Anton Reinbold had a saving idea over 100 years ago: namely, to hang the carved figures with their bright colors on the Christmas tree as Christmas decorations.

Authentic and sustainable instead of made in China

Today, Arschpfeiferl & Co are experiencing a real renaissance: threaded onto red woolen threads, they have a permanent place on Advent wreaths and as Christmas tree decorations. One could well say that they are a particularly beautiful symbol of the return to the value of the original and the craft. Or, as woodcarver Stefan Grassl puts it, "The people like something real on the tree, not just glitter and tinsel." He, too, has noticed an increasing demand for his hand-carved figures in recent years.

The Berchtesgaden War is exhibited at Adelsheim Castle

Are you curious and want to see Berchtesgadener War with your own eyes? Maybe even elicit one of its typical shrill sounds from the Arschpfeiferl yourself? At the Berchtesgaden Christmas Market, the little treasures are offered in many different versions. You can also buy Berchtesgadener War directly at the Schlossplatz in the store of the "Berchtesgadener Handwerkskunst" as well as in the museum of local history in the castle of Adelsheim. Here, Friederike Reinbold, granddaughter of Anton Reinbold, has built up a collection of the most beautiful specimens.

All images ©erlebe.bayern/Bernhard Huber

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