Byers Choice Carolers

Caroler Chronicle Edition I - 2005




This year's June Event theme will be Christmas Traditions. A colonial Christmas Illumination, taken from the traditions of COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG, will begin the fun and festivities. The grounds will be lighted with cressets and gas lanterns leading up to a celebratory illumination that will light up the night sky.

In Colonial Williamsburg, the Grand Illumination celebration begins each year on the first Sunday of December when magnificent displays of fireworks occur simultaneously over the Capitol Building, Governor's Palace and Powder Magazine. The festivities begin once the Royal Drum & Fife Corps march from the Palace to the Capitol. Once the fireworks have ended, the Drum & Fife Corps march back to the Palace and the local entertainment begins in the streets with storytellers, carolers, bagpipe players, singers, dancers and more. The streets are aglow from bonfires and the houses are lit only by candles in the windows. Each door is resplendent with handmade greenery, wreaths and garlands.

Illuminations were common in the 18th century to celebrate major events such as great military victories or the arrival of a new colonial governor. It was standard to fire guns and set off fireworks for these celebrations.

Our WILLIAMSBURG figurines are dressed in their finest attire for the ball. Although we won't be having a ball at Byers' Choice, we are planning an evening with music, a colonial Christmas dinner, and a grand illumination of the Byers' Choice grounds. All are invited, reservations are a must as illumination seating is limited. So if you are interested in joining us for this event, please fill out the enclosed form and return it promptly.

Over the years, we have enjoyed researching Old World Christmas traditions in hopes of sharing them with our customers. Last December, Jeff and Dawn Byers spent a week visiting a number of Christmas Markets throughout Southern Germany and Austria. They were so taken by the charm and character of these outdoor festivals that they felt it would be fun to recreate a traditional European market atmosphere for our Caroler event this June.

German Christmas markets have a long history. Nuremberg's Christkindlesmarkt (Christ Child Market) is one of the most famous and one of the oldest. From early December to Christmas Eve, the wintry air is filled with the aroma of Stollen (baked fruit loaves), Bratwurst, gebrannte Mandeln (roasted almonds), and Lebkuchen (gingerbread), a spicy cookie. The market stalls are decorated with branches of fir and lit by lanterns. Shoppers make their way between the red-roofed stalls, looking, tasting, and purchasing. One local favorite is the Rauschgoldengel (gold-foil angel). The legend of these angels dates back to the 17th century when a German craftsman created a tinsel angel in the likeness of his daughter whom he saw in a dream shortly after her untimely passing. After the dream, he immediately went to work recreating the image out of wood and wafer thin brass. Friends were so enamored by the angel that they convinced the craftsman to bring the beautiful ornament to the market the following Advent. The angel was so embraced by the townsfolk that it became a fixture at the market and was displayed in a prominent spot for all to see. The original angel has survived the passing of time and can still be seen to this day during the Christmas Market in Nuremberg. Many other Bavarian cities from Munich to Rothenburg have started their own markets, each with their own unique styles and traditions.

This June, Byers' Choice will be recreating a European market during our Traditions Weekend in Chalfont, PA. Everyone is welcome to stroll through our outdoor market and to see a variety of holiday decorations and watch demonstrations on how these unique handcrafts are made. The market will surely recreate the warm and timeless holiday traditions that have brought European families together for generations.

Traditions Open House Weekend
June 10th -- 12th 2005 at Byers' Choice Ltd.

This year we thought that it would be fun to highlight a number of holiday traditions, as they are enjoyed around the world. The fun will start off on Friday evening with a special reception and Holiday feast, including turkey and all of the trimmings. After dessert, a tree lighting ceremony on the factory grounds will light the night air.

For the day-trippers, there will be much to see and do on Saturday and Sunday. With Christmas Traditions from Around the World as our theme, we have lots of surprises in store. Outside, we will recreate a traditional German Christmas Market with stalls filled with unique demonstrations and a variety of holiday decorations. Come see Oldrich Kvapil demonstrating the centuries old art of woodcarving along with many other artisans showing how to make various ornaments and holiday treats that have been passed down through the generations. Visitors are welcome to sign up to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the factory and speak directly with the Byers' Choice artisans who create the magic. For more information, please call 215-822-6700 or visit


History of Gingerbread

Lebkuchen's (gingerbread) origin is German and dates back more than 600 years. It is believed that gingerbread most likely originated in the monasteries.  At that time, ginger was found to have a preservative effect when added to pastries and bread, and this probably led to the development of recipes for ginger cakes, cookies and flavored breads. The manufacture of gingerbread appears to have spread throughout Western Europe at the end of the eleventh century.  From its very beginning, gingerbread has been a fairground delicacy. Many fairs became known as "gingerbread fairs." Gingerbread-making was eventually recognized as a profession in itself. In the seventeenth century, gingerbread bakers had the exclusive right to make it, except at Christmas and Easter.

Gifted craftsmen carved intricate wooden molds; artists assisted with decorating the gingerbread in frosting or gold paint. Incredibly fancy hearts, angels, wreaths and other festive shapes were sold at fairs, carnivals and markets. If a fair honored a town's patron saint, the saint's image might have been stamped into the gingerbread you would buy. If the fair were on a special market day, the cakes would probably be decorated with an edible icing to look like men, animals, valentine hearts or flowers. Sometimes the dough was simply cut into round "snaps."

Certain shapes were associated with different seasons: buttons and flowers were found at Easter fairs, and animals and birds were a feature in Autumn.  During the nineteenth century, gingerbread was both modernized and romanticized. When the Grimm brothers collected volumes of German fairy tales, they found one about Hansel and Gretel.

Gingerbread making in North America has its origins in the traditions of the many settlers from all parts of Northern Europe who brought with them family recipes and customs. By the nineteenth century, America had been baking gingerbread for decades.  American recipes usually called for fewer spices than their European counterparts, but often made use of ingredients that were only available regionally. Maple syrup gingerbreads were made in New England; and in the South, sorghum molasses was used.

Lebkuchen Gingerbread Recipe

4 Eggs
2 Cups Sugar
2/3 Cup Honey
1-1/2 Cups Slivered Almonds
4-1/2 Cups Flour
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Salt

1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Cloves
1/2 Teaspoon Allspice
Colored Sugar

Frosting: powdered sugar and evaporated milk

Beat eggs. Add sugar, honey and almonds. Add flour mixed with soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Spread on greased cookie sheets, one large and one small. Spread by dipping your hand into flour mixture and pressing towards the edges of the cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. When cool, ice with powdered sugar frosting and sprinkle with colored sugar. When completely cool, cut in small pieces about 2 to 1.5 inches. Store in air-tight container in cool place.

Decorated Gingerbread House -- 
available this June


Caroler Chronicle Home Page