How the Moravian Star Became a Holiday Beacon

It’s hard not to look at a star and wonder at the magic of its twinkling light.

Luckily, there’s plenty of stargazing in Winston-Salem — especially in the winter — thanks to the bounty of Moravian stars lit and on display throughout the city, shining brightly in doorways, and atop Christmas trees.

And you definitely know you’re here when you see the 31-foot Moravian star, a symbol of hope and peace, glowing from atop Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist while driving on Salem Parkway.

But what exactly makes a Moravian star different than others, how did they become a famed holiday beacon, and why are they so popular in Winston-Salem?

A Star is Born

Winston-Salem is home to North Carolina’s first Moravian settlement, nearby Historic Bethabara Park. A small group of Moravians, German-speaking Protestants, traveled the Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania and settled the community here in 1753.

The Moravians relocated to a tract of land a few miles away in 1766 and formed Salem, today’s Old Salem Museums & Gardens. At the time, Salem was the area’s central hub of trade, craft, and commerce for the surrounding Moravian farming communities.

The importance of education was made clear in the bountiful notes and meticulous records left behind and intact today. It was during a geometry lesson for 17th-century students that a star was born.

The Moravian star, known for its unique 26 points, is a multidimensional masterpiece.

The 26th point is designed to be missing on purpose so a flat base can be used for mounting or hanging. Today, the number of star points can range from six to more than 100! The shape’s technical name is an augmented rhombicuboctahedron — not something we’d want to say five times fast.

Seen in abundance in Moravian congregations and communities around the world, the symbol remains largely associated with Advent. But Winston-Salem’s story of the Moravian star doesn’t end here.

As a city of known Arts & Innovation, these stars can be found in all colors and patterns, mediums, and sizes. There’s no shortage of them here, either. If you’re looking to take the tradition home with you, our holiday gift guide showcases several unique retailers for you to peruse.

Try your hand at making your own Moravian star at Historic Bethabara Park during one of their upcoming Saturday holiday workshops. Materials are provided, although it’s recommended to bring your own scissors.

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