You could pay over a million dollars for a Steiff stuffed animal if you wanted one of the very rare ones but the story of the first Steiff toys is what makes them so interesting to me. It was started in 1880 by Margarete Steiff. Margarete had an illness when she wasn’t even two years old that left her with paralyzed legs and painful right arm. She was a fearless little girl, taken to school by her family and neighborhood friends in a hay cart. She had to be carried upstairs to the classroom.
Her sisters had a tailoring business and Margarete worked there after receiving her training as a seamstress. When her sisters left the business, her father converted the home into a shop for her. She purchased her first sewing machine with her first profits and had it altered so she could use it with her less painful arm. She ran her own business that eventually had several other seamstresses. She made clothing and items for the home. One day she made her first pin cushion shaped like an elephant.
Children loved the pincushions shaped like elephants, making them the world’s first plush toys. Soon she had sold over 5,000 of them and made other types of stuffed animals as well. Her nephews eventually entered her business and helped to develop the company further. Her big breakthrough came with a large order of her stuffed bears to an American company who dubbed them Teddy Bears, named after Theodore ”Teddy“ Roosevelt, one of our presidents.
The Steiff toys were created with fine materials and with a focus on high-quality construction. As other companies began to make similar products, the Steiff company developed the Steiff – button in the ear to distinguish it from others. New Steiff toys are cherished by children worldwide today but some of the older ones are sold for thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Check out this site to see some of the most expensive ones.
The museum for the Steiff company is in Germany. If you want to see what a visit to this museum would be like check this out.
I found a site that helps you to explore the Christmas traditions of different countries. It is a fun site and I hope you will take a look at it. It is called whychristmas.com.
I learned that many of the traditions I have heard of started in Germany. The Advent calendar originates from Germany. I never had one growing up but I have seen them before. The ones I have seen are paper with little windows on the dates that open revealing a small prize/gift. In Germany, the gifts are sometimes in small boxes on a wreath. One is opened each day of Advent, a 24-day period leading to Christmas. The wreaths have four candles, a candle representing each week of Advent.
Germany is credited with the origin of the decorated Christmas tree (Tannenbaum) and with bringing them inside the home, usually on Christmas Eve. Hans Greiner, of a glassworks established in Lauscha in the late 1500s, made the first ornaments in 1847. I still remember when our Christmas trees were decorated primarily with glass ornaments and tinsel.
The Christmas Market is an important part of the holiday season in Germany. Most of the towns have one of these events. There are many that have become tourist-worthy. Here is a list of the best Christmas Markets in Germany. I love the picture of the market near the Black Forest.
The atmosphere at the festivals is festive and filled with nostalgia for traditions of days gone by.
We end our year of virtual travel in Germany, known as Bundesrepublik Deutschland or Deutschland by the people who live there. (I found it interesting that the name of the country is so different from the formal name outside of Germany. Mental Floss produced a video to explain the reasons for this.)
The Federal Republic of Germany is the second largest country in the European Union with a population about 1/3 of the USA. The world’s second-largest exporter, Germany is powerful due to the size of the economy. The country shares a border with nine other countries and has coastline along the Northern Sea and Baltic Sea. Located in Europe and a strong member of the European Union, you need only look at a map to see the importance of strong relationships with neighboring countries.
Countries are filled with a diversity of landscapes and city skylines and like most of the countries we have visited, the landscape of Germany ranges from big beautiful cities like Berlin, Munich, Cologne, and Hamburg to large forests and mountains. We learn that Germany is the home of the original Gummy Bears, the Steiff Toy company, the Ravensburger puzzle company, and some famous car companies -Mercedes Benz, BMW, Audi, Volkswagen, and Porsche. We visit the salt mines, the castles, and iconic landmarks. As with every country, we leave with an appreciation of the great diversity of culture in our world.