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Räuchermännchen or wooden smoker men have graced German homes during the Christmas season for many, many years. They belong to Christmas just like the Weihnachtspyramide, the Adventskranz and the Schwibbogen candle arches. In our home, the little incense burner with his small lantern always came out of his box before the first Advent Sunday and sat right next to the Christmas pyramid throughout the entire holiday season.
For days leading up to Christmas Eve, the smell of a crackling fire and Tannenduft (pine tree) would fill our living room even though we never had a fireplace in our home.
Unlike the wooden nutcrackers which really shouldn’t be used to crack any nuts, Räuchermännchen can be used over and over again. In some German households, they are actually used year around. Every smoker has two parts to it. The upper part which is hollowed out and a lower part with a little metal plate where a cone of incense or Räucherkerze is placed. After the incense is lit and the upper part of the smoke man is connected with the lower part, smoke leaves the mouth of the Räuchermännchen. Most smoke men have pipes to make it look like they are actually smoking.
Once made from dough and paper mache, Räuchermännchen are now carved out of wood and come in a variety of characters. Whereas mostly figures of the everyday life, such as miners, foresters and fishermen, were used as motifs for the early smoke men, nowadays some even look like Santa Claus with fur detail and a metal pipe.
The invention of toy makers of the Ore Mountain or Erzgebirge, the first smoker was developed in 1850. Historically incense has been used to clean evil spirits and to make the world a better smelling place. Carvers in the Erzgebirge began carving smokers to burn incense during the holiday season. They were meant the symbolize the gift brought on January 6th to the infant Jesus as well as clear out the spirits of the previous year.
Whether you like a snowman, a soldier, or a traditional Santa Claus, there are many beautiful German Smokers to chose from. Even the incense cones come in a variety of fragrances including gingerbread, vanilla or traditional pine sure to infuse your home this holiday season.