The World of the Prune Men
Zwetschgenmännle – the well-loved figures made of prune – have been sold at the Christkindlesmarkt for decades. More than 350 different figures are available—ranging from “naked”, to chimney sweeps for luck to kissing couples. There are hundreds “living” in the world of the prune men: guitar and piano players, cooks and waiters, pastors and the devil and more. The figures are nine to 22 centimeters high and create an illustrious company on the shelves of the booths where they’re sold.
Creating a figure is both time-intensive and difficult. It can take up to an hour to build a typical prune man or woman – in special cases even longer. Wire, which is mounted on a piece of birch wood, is used as a skeleton to give the prune man “backbone”. Dried prunes serve as arms and legs; figs make up the body. Walnuts – the smoother the better – are used for the head. Paint a face and add a pointed hat and you have the perfect prune man.
It is said that prune men were invented by a Nuremberg wire drawer in the 18th century. He wanted a gift to please his children, but only had his wire and a plum tree that stood in front of his house … the clever result was a prune man. The legend tells us that his children ate the prunes, which today isn’t the case – “Not fit for consumption” signs can be found at every booth.
Instead, prune men should be a feast for the eye. They need little care: only dusting. If the body of a prune man turns grey, it’s sugar and not mold and can be removed with a little alcohol. That way, you can enjoy your prune man for years and, as the Nuremberg saying goes, “Hosd an Zwetschga im Haus, gäid dir es Geld und Gligg ned aus” … “With a prune man in your house, money and happiness stay too”.
Other reports from Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt