Dear Sun Spots: Thank you for this very informative column. I have a few questions for you.

First, we see these pretty stars on houses in the city. Are these a decorative item or do they represent something special?

Secondly, we have been watching different game shows on TV. Where does the money come that these games show give away come from? Millions of dollars are given away. How much taxes do these winners have to pay for their winnings? Thank you for your help. – No Name, No Town.


Answer: You don’t specify what city but Sun Spots believes you are referring to the rusty/reddish brown stars that are appearing on homes from Portland to the Lewiston/Auburn area. Sun Spots had the pleasure of chatting with Lorraine Roberge, who owns Provenchers, (299 River Road, Lewiston, 783-9777) along with her husband, Roger. She says she read a country magazine that they signify happiness. Provenchers carries several different sizes. Lorraine says they are referred to as barn stars and come in 16, 24, 40, 53 and 69 inch sizes and in rusty, Colonial and Americana colors. The small ones can be used inside and the larger outdoors. The newest star that Provenchers carries is a 3-D wavy painted tin star.

You might be interested in noting that according to www.tintreasures.com and www.the-artistic-garden.com, the Barn Star originated within the German farming community, some 300 years agos when groups of religious refugees from the Rhine region of Germany migrated to south eastern Pennsylvania seeking religious freedom. These refugees included Amish and Mennonites – people of “plain” dress – and Lutherans and other Reformed groups of more worldly dress called “fancy.”

These farmers would often mount a large star-shaped decoration onto their barns. Its significance varied. Some farmers considered the stars good luck, like a horseshoe hung above a doorway; while others viewed it as simply aesthetic and pleasing to the eye. Many barn stars, unique in their appearance, represented the trademark of the builder who constructed the barn.

The tradition of the barn star in America can be traced back to the 1700s, and to at least the 1870s in Pennsylvania. Barn stars were most popular after the Civil War.

The barn star composition has changed over the years. At first they were built directly into the barn. Later, the stars were crafted from wood as a separate piece. In the last 30 years, barn stars were constructed from roofing tiles, giving them a rough finish. Recently, since the ’90s, local craftsmen have been making them from thin steel, unfinished, so they rust. The present-day barn star, now popular on homes of every size and shape, has come to mean an outward sign of good luck and good fortune!

According to www.the-artistic-garden.com, here’s what the various colors meant pertaining to the Amish and/or Pennsylvania Dutch painted barn symbols:

Black: Protection, also used to blend or bind elements together; Blue: Protection, peace, calmness and spirituality; Brown: Mother earth, also can mean friendship and strength; Green: Growth, fertility, success in things and ideas that grow; Orange: Abundance in career, projects and matters needing an added push; Red: Emotions, passion, charisma, lust and also creativity; Violet: Things that are sacred; White: Purity, power of the moon, allows energy to flow freely; Yellow: Health in body and mind, love of man and the sun, connection to the God.

Regarding your second question. The game shows are run by sponsors who provide the prizes. The prizes are considered income. Winners do have to pay taxes on their winnings, how much depends on how much they win and how much their state collects. First the federal government will take their share and then state taxes are also taken out of the winnings. Forty one states, according to www.bankrate.com, collect income tax.

This column is for you, our readers. It is for your questions and comments. There are only two rules: You must write to the column and sign your name (we won’t use it if you ask us not to). Letters will not be returned or answered by mail, and telephone calls will not be accepted. Your letters will appear as quickly as space allows. Address them to Sun Spots, P.O. Box 4400, Lewiston, ME 04243-4400. Inquiries can also be posted at www.sunjournal.com in the Advice section under Opinion on the left-hand corner of your computer screen. In addition, you can e-mail your inquiries to [email protected]


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