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Uniquely Carolinian Christmas: Old Salem Moravian Stars & Cookies

You know Christmas is coming in Winston-Salem, North Carolina when Moravian stars light up neighborhood porches and when you see the enormous 31-foot Moravian star atop Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. If you are from the Winston-Salem area, you may have eaten a Moravian Spice cookie over the holidays as well. You've probably noticed the star-shaped lanterns in the past and possibly tasted the wafer-thin holiday treat, but have you ever wondered about their origins?

 

The Moravian star is a star-shaped lantern with 26 points and is an emblem for the Moravian Protestant Faith. Used as a decoration for Advent and Christmas, the Moravian Star is seen in the Old Salem area of Winston-Salem as well as throughout Germany and Europe in communities with Moravian congregations. In Germany, the stars are known as Herrnhut stars, named after the first Moravian community in Saxony, Germany. 

 

Begun in the 1830s at a German Moravian Boys School, the Moravian Star probably started as a geometry lesson for students. Although the star was initially a geometry lesson, the Moravian church soon adopted the decoration as an Advent symbol. The star grew in popularity with other churches and even with countries without Moravian congregations. You will find the Moravian star often used in Nativity scenes as the star of Bethlehem. 

 

In 1880, an alumnus of the school, Peter Verbeek, began to make the stars and sell instructions for making them at his bookstore. As the stars' popularity rose, Verbeek's son Harry went on to found the Herrnhut Star Factory, which was the primary source of stars until World War I. The Herrnhut plant had to close for a period of time after the war, though demand for the stars continued to rise. It was during this time that Moravians in Old Salem began to produce the stars for sale in the United States. The Moravian stars are still created and sold in Old Salem today, and you can find them as paper, glass or metal ornaments as well as plastic porch lanterns. You can see various Moravian stars throughout historic Old Salem at the Winkler Bakery, the Moravian Book & Gift Shop, T. Bagge Merchant & Garden Shop, A. Butner Hat Shop, and the Old Salem Visitor Center. 

 

The Moravian spice cookie has a Colonial American history, although they are distantly related to the German cookie, the Lebkuchen. Known as the "World's Thinnest Cookie," the Moravian spice cookie is associated with Christmas in Moravian households in communities like Winston-Salem, North Carolina and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Prominent families in the Moravian community would host open houses with elaborate Nativity scenes. People opened their homes for community viewing of these displays and served Moravian spice cookies to guests as an integral part of this tradition. 

 

Today, Winston Salem has been called the epicenter of Moravian cookie production with more than a million pounds baked there each year. People worldwide enjoy the Moravian cookie for its rich flavors and paper-thin form. You can find Moravian cookies in Old Salem at the Winkler Bakery as well as at various Dewey's Bakery locations in Winston-Salem and even at the Shops at Old Salem Online Store. 

 

Before you head to Old Salem for an authentic Moravian Christmas experience, make sure you have your AAA membership card on hand. Visit your local AAA Car Care location before you hit the road for all of your car maintenance needs, including battery checks. Contact your local AAA travel agent to help make your Old Salem trip planning easy with hotel discounts, reservations, TripTiks — AAA's exclusive travel planner — and AAA's Mobile App. Before leaving town, make sure your home is secure, and that you are covered with the right vehicle and homeowner's insurance for any unexpected situation. You can efficiently manage your AAA membership online, or call 1-866-593-8626 while on the road.

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