Photography: J. Barclay
Have you ever noticed porch lights that have a starburst shape? They have a different feel depending on the style of a home. They look very mod on a mid-century or “atomic ranch” style home or they can look like a Victorian embellishment on a period home. The shape is actually a Moravian star and this shape has quite a history. The Moravian star was originally adopted by the Moravian church based in Europe as a symbol of Advent which is why the shape is used a lot for Christmas decorations. It also is known as the Star of Bethlehem in Christian teachings.
These porch lights can be seen adorning homes just about anywhere but they can be considered standard porch lighting in none other than Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. On a recent trip to Bethlehem I took a stroll to enjoy the historic homes and couldn’t help but notice this. Most of the homes have a Moravian star light in the entryways.
This makes sense since it is Bethlehem but the association is also tied to Moravian settlement and Moravian College, the liberal arts college located in Bethlehem as well, which has a rich history dating back to 1742 when it was founded by Moravians.
The shape itself started as a paper fold and is said to have originated as a geometry lesson in a boys’ school in Niesky, Germany in the 1830’s [Moravian Stars – Wikipedia]. They became very popular and were later mass-produced from the Herrnhut Star Factory. Authentic Moravian stars can be found in a specialty gift shop at the Moravian Archives in downtown Bethlehem, and are still manufactured in Herrnhut, Germany. The Moravian star lights for interior and exterior lighting can be found just about anywhere, from basic to high end interpretations and are plentiful as decorations during the Christmas season.
Ever since that stroll in Bethlehem a few weeks ago, I notice Moravian stars everywhere. These “starbursts” as I always call them, take on a new context for me when I see them even right next door to my own home on my neighbor’s porch!