German Smokers - Incense Smokers (Räuchermännchen)
Wonderful German christmas tradition and meaningful gift
There is a remarkable heritage that belongs to the German smokers. When you consider the traditions and beginning of this item it is easy to understand why these make perfect and very beloved gifts that will be given places of honor in the household.
But first take a look at my picks:
Some Historical Background
Early German incense smokers were also known as "Räuchermännchen" and they were first seen in the 17th century in southeastern Germany.
Craftsmen were creating these exquisite carvings from single pieces of a wood found in the Miriquidi Forest.
Today these figurines are one of the main sources for revenue in this area. This part of Germany is also referred to as the Erzgebirge Mountains and it was once famed for its silver mines, which created industries and jobs for over two centuries.
a Pastime tradition over centuries
When the silver ran low, the people mined for tin and the population continued to thrive. One of the activities that they were passionate about is creating woodcrafts that held superb details.
There was a Swedish invasion during the 17th century that lasted for three decades and nearly destroyed the people and the land. Even through these trying times, the German smokers and finely crafted wood pieces remained a tradition and pastime of the populace of the area.
While these "wooden men" and other items were seen and traded it was not until the middle of the 19th century that they began to be extremely desirable and popular.
The Rise of these German figurines as Collectibles
The people did not want to give up their ways of mountain and forest life to move to the cities and they were pleased to discover that their German smokers,
figures and other hand carved items were able to be sold easily in the marketplace.
The Erzgebirge Mountains became known as the best place in Europe to collect toys and wooden art collectibles. These pieces were not only sought by people in Europe but throughout the world.
German smokers will have incense placed in them that is to be burned to commemorate the end of the Christmas season. The German people celebrate the Christmas holidays for a 12 day period and they mark both the beginning (Dec.25th) and the end (Jan. 6th) of this season with ceremony and traditions.
The incense has long enjoyed use as a fragrance and treasured item, but it is also believed to ward of bad energy and spirits and cleanse the air. The use of incense also is linked to the gifts presented to the Baby Jesus by the Wise Men.
Famous Makers of the "Incense Figurines"
This area of Europe was to depend upon the woodworking industry they had created during the years of World War II. While the Erzgebirge area was producing uranium for military and industrial use, it was the wooden toys and figures that were bringing income to the people.
Families and esteemed woodcrafters began to create their own lines with distinctive features.
People around the world readily recognize the quality of these gift items that are emblazoned with the famous family names of Steinbach, KWO, Ulbricht, Dregeno, or Mueller. See my picks above.
A History of the Construction
At one time, the first of the German Räuchermännchen was constructed of one piece of wood and the incense was burned on a small tray that was placed near the figurine.
In the 18th century a smoker was made of two fitted pieces of wood and this allowed the insertion of the new incense cones that could be lit and would burn slowly, letting the smoke issue forth from the mouth of the figure. This is how people now expect these pieces to look and work.
The Appeal of German Smokers
Not only is a German smoker beloved for the history and connection it has to Germany’s past, they are admired and cherished because the carvings represent regular people.
These are not figures of politicians or famous men, but they are carved to show images of workers and laborers.
These representations of the hardworking, everyday man have transformed the smokers into wonderful icons for all to relate to and enjoy. There is little doubt that German smokers are indeed the perfect German gift to give or receive.