Angel Chimes for Christmas
My Favorite Childhood Christmas Decoration
Do you remember having a set of brass angel chimes at Christmas, when you were a kid? Small candles set around the base would be lighted to make a rising column of warm air, which in turn made a little turbine rotate. The figure of an angel blowing a trumpet rotated on top, while other cherub figures circled below like a carousel. Each of them dangled a tiny striker that hit two rounded metal shapes as they went by, making a delicate tinkling sound like the ring of a tiny bell.
are a big part of my own childhood memories - my Dad brought them back from a business trip to Sweden, years ago - and to this day I have to smile whenever the cherubs twirl to ring out their soft music. Swedish angel chimes
The Story of Real "Swedish Angel Chimes"
Where do Angel Chimes come from?
Angel chimes come from a long European tradition of candle-powered Christmas ornaments that charm us with their movement and tinkling bell sounds. Angel chimes were first patented in 1906 by a German toy manufacturer, Walter Stock, but most of us will be more familiar with the simplified Scandinavian design that became popular after the Second World War.
Angel chimes of this post-WW2 design were made in Gefle, Sweden, for 60 years and became a part of Christmas for generations of children in Europe, North America, and around the world. By the early 2000s, however, Andersson & Boberg, the Swedish manufacturers of the 12-inch angel chimes, were struggling to compete with cheaper, smaller, made-in-China copies. After six decades of production, the European originators stopped making the traditional Christmas decoration and Swedish angel chimes were out of production for a full year!
Then a Turkish metalworks bought not only the "Angel Chimes" trademark but also the actual equipment from the Swedish factory, and in 2010 they brought the authentic angel chimes back into production. (Read The Battle for the Angels Spins on an Expiring Patent and a Brand by John Dila for the full story on the Sweden-Turkey shift; it's rather interesting.)
Now, once again, a new generation of children can enjoy this traditional holiday decoration that was such a source of joy and wonder in our own childhood.
Image: Angel chime, 1906 by Walter Stock (Berliner Illustrierte) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Swedish Angel Chimes - Almost-Authentic Carousel in 1948 Style
"Swedish" angel chimes are physically made in Turkey, these days - there is no factory still making them in Scandinavia - but this version is still made to the same pattern, and they're actually made with the same equipment used to create the original Andersson & Boberg angel chimes. Serious collectors may want to scope out eBay for the true vintage/antique item, but the new version will do very nicely for a charming and nostalgic Christmas decoration that is also a great homeschooler's Science lesson!
Replacement Candles - Mini Candles for Swedish Angel Chimes and Christmas Carousels
It used to be a challenge to find these small size of candles for candleholder Christmas decorations, but now that carousels are coming back into favor you'll find that plenty of replacement candles are available. I've found the occasional box in our local department stores but that can be hit-or-miss, as sometimes the big box stores will stock them and sometimes they get in only a few and they sell out fast. You'll find some good prices at Amazon on the genuine Biedermann & Sons candles, in a wide range of colors.
I like the festive red mini-candles as an occasional change from the traditional white candles most often used in angel chimes. In the genuine Biedermann line you'll find lots of color choice to match your Christmas decorations, whatever your color theme this year - even silver and gold metallic mini candles, if you prefer a little more glitz! Most of these candles are kept in stock, available to buy all year round.
How to Set Up Swedish Angel Chimes - Put the chimes together right, so your angel will spin and ring the bells
I got a warm nostaligic feeling when I saw this video. The box that holds this fellow's vintage angel chimes is exactly the same as the one I remember from my own childhood. His angel chimes seem to be copper, and the ones we had in my family were made of brass, but they're otherwise the same.
Modern Scandinavian Angel Chimes - Gold Tone or Silver Tone Christmas Angel Carousel Decorations
I'm not so excited about the modern designs here, and I can't tell you anything about how well they function as actual candle-powered carousels, but they are kind of pretty and sparkly... and perhaps the modern style is a better fit for your décor? Here they are, at any rate - and I'll be interested to know which style you choose!
Conveniently, this modern style is designed to use a single tealight candle instead of the traditional mini candles.
Here's a silver-tone version of the same new design, if your Christmas decorations follow a cooler color theme.
Traditional Swedish Christmas Angel Chimes for Sale
The brass plate from which the pieces are cut seems to be not quite as thick as the original that I grew up with, so you do have to take a bit of care not to bend the pieces - keep out of reach of inquisitive toddlers, or you'll soon want a replacement set! - but that actually means the carousel can turn more easily without needing as strong a contrast between the ambient room temperature and the rising warm air from the candles. The sound of the carousel bells, however, is every bit as wonderful to my ears!