At the Dallas Arboretum, Christmas cheer can be measured. It is a 23-foot tall Christmas Pyramid, handcrafted in Germany for The Pauline and Austin Neuhoff Christmas Village at the Dallas Arboretum. Visitors can admire the festive addition through Dec. 31.
"So between The Twelve Days of Christmas and the Christmas Village, we have a really charming outdoor holiday exhibit," Dallas Arboretum Director of Gardening Dave Forehand said. "The best way to see a little German village right now is to come to the Dallas Arboretum."
The Marilyn and Ben Weber Family sponsored the Christmas Pyramid as a gift to the city and the Dallas Arboretum. The Christmas Village is comprised of 14 shops and facades and is inspired by European Christmas markets, or Christkindlmarket. Christmas Pyramids are multi-tiered centerpieces of German Christmas markets, featuring nativity scenes, nutcrackers, and other holiday characters. “I thought it fit in perfectly with what we had already done with the Christmas houses,” Pauline Neuhoff said.
The Neuhoffs have a special affinity for Christmas pyramids. While visiting Rothenburg, Germany, they admired the craftsmanship of German ornaments. Back in Texas, the couple purchased a Christmas pyramid in Fredericksburg to decorate their yard. “They are very durable for what they are,” Neuhoff said. “We’ve had ice storms and everything and it is still in perfect condition.”
Authenticity is a priority for the Dallas Arboretum. German artisans from Erzgebirge region, known for the Ore Mountains, spent 2,150 hours designing and building the Christmas pyramid. The team at the Dallas Arboretum discussed several design ideas with the artisans, but they trusted the Germans’ artistic intuition to create something special.
The artisans do not speak English. To present the design concept, they created a handcrafted miniature version of the brightly colored pyramid. “What they came up with was not what we expected. It was better!” Neuhoff said. “Everything they do is so quality.”
Over six months, 15 German workers hand-carved the figurines for the four levels of the Christmas Pyramid. The bottom level depicts a nativity scene with Mary, Joseph, Three Wise Men, a donkey, and a camel welcoming Baby Jesus. The second level features six children holding a flower, symbolizing ties to the Dallas Arboretum.
The third level presents four shopkeepers whose shops are represented in the Christmas Village, including an apothecary, a cobbler, a clockmaker, and a bookmaker. Four angels playing trumpets make up the fourth level. The pyramid is topped off with a spinning propeller.
Each level spins as sixteen electric candles illuminate the figurines ranging in height from 19-35 inches. “I think there’s something about the movement that makes it magical and the lights too. The figurines are so charming and draw people in,” Neuhoff said.
Having put together his own pyramid for several years, Austin Neuhoff worked with the Dallas Arboretum team to install this towering creation. Because of travel restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic, the German team could not travel to assist with the installation. They did find a creative way to offer some guidance. “The Germans were great. They sent over a video with a translator explaining how to put it together,” Neuhoff said.
The Christmas Pyramid is the center of attention at Pyramid Square, a new area of the Christmas Village. Surrounding the Pyramid is a paved area, perfect for selfies. The square hosts three new shops: the Chocolate Shop, the Toy Shop and the Edelweiss Haus with food and drink. “The Pyramid Square will add some new elements to make it even more interesting and exciting,” Neuhoff said.
Complementing the Christmas Village is the 12 Days of Christmas, a series of Victorian-style gazebos depicting the characters of the classic carol. The elaborate gazebos are scattered throughout the garden, making the Dallas Arboretum an outdoor holiday treat.
"I think everyone needs opportunities to have some kind of experience other than just staying at home," Forehand said. "Just a little bit of joy having been together with their friends or family in this place."
In the interest of safety during the pandemic, capacity is limited. The Dallas Arboretum has created safety precautions for each house in the Christmas Village including a safe environment for Santa visits and photos. Volunteers pass out individually wrapped samples and only one family unit at a time may enter the houses. There are social distancing markings throughout the Christmas Village, near the garden’s eateries and the Edelweiss Haus. Timed tickets are required and visitors over the age of five are required to wear a mask.
To purchased tickets, visit https://www.dallasarboretum.org/