Saturday, December 15, 2012


Räuchermännchen or smoking men were the creation of miners in the Ore mountains of Germany.

The ore mountain mines have had their ups and downs ever since the 12th century when the first silver mines were opened. Over the centuries tin, cobalt, uranium and other ores were found within these mountains and with each new discovery more people would flow into the region. However, populations increased and decreased in the area based on factors ranging from political instabilites, trade policies, lapses in finding more deposits and wars.

It was during these decreases in production when money became tight that people in the area started
looking for other ways to generate income. The miners turned to the forests in the area and the excess
wood that they had at their disposal. From this resource they started making wooden goods and toys; a lot of which were Christmas themed.

Räuchermännchen were one of these products. First seen around 1830 they were usually human figures representing the miners themselves or other trades within the area. Hunters, fishers, bakers etc... The toy makers would also sneak in political statements into these figures from time to time if they were displeased with the way the buracracy was ruling.

They are made of 2 pieces and hollowed out. A cone of incense is placed on the bottom and then the
second part, usually the upper body of the figurine is placed on top. The incense is lit and a hole
representing the mouth allows the smoke to come out. They now have a greater variety of smokers from houses, cannons, animals and various character themes.

Growing up we had one that was a soldier or king, it was one of those simple things that didn't really stand out when I was younger. I think my parents had it since I was born or even before that and as the years went on it became a regular christmas decoration that was placed on the table with our advent wreath. It's like an old t-shirt, nothing special, but it's been there through the good times and bad and becomes such a part of your experiences that it's doesn't feel right when it's not there. Not something dramatic, just a subtle feeling that it is expected to be there. I've kept a quite a few things like this throughout my life that represent or have a very strong bond to a specific time or experience in my life. To compound this the incense adds another dimension to the memories and it provides another sweet aromatic link to the past.

1 comment:

  1. I love those figures. Hope you had a merry Christmas and have a happy new year.