The Löffelfamilie is how this neon sign has been known to everyone in Leipzig since it was first lightened up in 1973. The non-official name can be translated as the Spoon Family. It is the only neon sign from East Germany we ever saw, still standing in public like this.
Before we visited Leipzig in the summer of 2021, we asked about locations we must see in town, and a few people pointed us toward this neon sign. We didn’t know anything about it then, so we were surprised to learn about it.
The Löffelfamilie neon sign stands where the VEB Feinkost Leipzig used to be, on Karl-Liebknechtstrasse. This is unusual since the sign was used for advertising their products, but this was communist East Germany, and there wasn’t a real reason to advertise anything…
Either way, the Löffelfamilie neon sign depicts a family of four with a father, mother, son, and daughter sitting on a semicircular table with a plate in front of each of them. They eat from these plates with a spoon, where the Löffelfamilie name comes from.
The outlines of the spoon family are marked by lines of a colorful neon tube that flips between on and off to create the illusion of motion. This is the simple way that the arms and spoons of the Löffelfamilie move. There are almost 200 meters of green, blue, red, and yellow glass tubes for all of this to work. And everything looks gorgeous.
But how did the Löffelfamilie come to be?
A legend says that Josip Broz Tito, the leader of Yugoslavia, came to East Germany once and mentioned to Erich Honecker, the General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, how grey Leipzig looked like. With this in mind, he started a movement called Leipzig – City of Water and Light to change this image of the city.
In 1973, as a part of this campaign, graphic designers Theo Hesselbarth and Jürgen Mau were commissioned to design a neon advertisement for the VEB Feinkost Leipzig. Supposedly, the visual reference they used was the Las Vegas cowboy, who was popular then. Between 1975 and 1976, the Löffelfamilie was put into place.
The Löffelfamilie after the German reunification
After the reunification of Germany, many companies from East Germany closed down. One of these companies was the VEB Feinkost Leipzig. The neon sign was left in its place, and due to the lack of maintenance, it began to deteriorate. In 1993, the neon sign was granted monument status, and a citizen’s initiative was put into place to preserve the Löffelfamilie.
After a few years, in December of 1999, the organization founded by the people of Leipzig turned on the Löffelfamilie neon sign again.
Nowadays, everyone can help support the spoon family sign with a donation by mobile phone. You can donate to the neon sign by SMS by sending a message with Löffelfamilie to the number 81190. It will cost you €3, and it will light the most famous neon sign in Leipzig for three minutes.
Löffelfamilie: The Spoon Family made of neon in Leipzig