Zwetschgenmännla & Zwetschgenweibla - Prune People

“You will never be without gold and happiness, if you have a prune person in your house”.

Over fifty years ago when I was a small girl my German friend gave me a figure at Christmas made of dried fruit. She told me it would bring me good luck. I have never forgotten how delighted I was with my zwetschgenmännla. I kept him for many years and he travelled from country to country with me, wrapped carefully in tissue paper.

Prune people are usually around 15 cm (six inches) tall and aren’t actually made solely of prunes but a mixture of dried plums, figs, raisins and nuts: figs for the bodies, prunes for arms and legs, raisins for hands, sometimes peanuts in their shells for feet, and with painted walnuts as heads.

The origins of these traditional handcrafted figures is debated still, yet their symbolism is clear - these are lucky little people, especially at Christmas and New Year when they’re offered as gifts.

I thought it was about time we tried to make some ourselves! This is a lovely activity to do on a winter’s day - taking some fine motor skill and care using wire, but entirely possible for an older child with some help.

You will need:

  • some strong but bendable wire
  • a wooden base
  • dried prunes
  • dried figs
  • dried raisins
  • walnuts in their shells
  • scraps of fabric and felt
  • a glue gun comes in handy if you have one

Firstly, thread 3 prunes for legs, add a fourth for the feet and then thread both pieces of wire through the figs to create a body. Bend the wires to form the arms and thread with prunes. Trim the wire and add raisins for hands.

Paint a face onto your walnut and leave it to dry. Add another fig onto the body to form a bit of a neck and then stick the walnut head on with a glue gun. Decorate or dress your prune person using scraps of fabric or felt any way you wish.

We drilled two small holes in the wooden bases for the ends of the wire under the feet, so that they stand up and can be manipulated into a quirky stance.

Aren’t they wonderful? We’d love to know if you have grown up with zwetschgenmännla in your life - and if you fancy making one, please do tag us on social as we’d absolutely love to see them!


Blog written by one half of our Founding Director duo Jo, who has visited many countries and remembers the joys discovered in every one.