Christmas is a very special time of year in Germany, with cheery outdoor Christmas markets everywhere and lots of traditional crafts and decorations. Many of these are new to me and one of my new favorites is a type of wooden figurine called a Räuchermann (smoking man) that is a decorative incense burner. Each figurine comes apart and holds a small incense cone. When lit, the smoke floats out of the figure’s mouth to make him look like he’s smoking.
I’ve seen quite a variety of figures including some rather strange modern ones (incense-smoking skateboarder?) but I like the more traditional ones best: craftsmen, miners, night watchmen. Mostly men I’m afraid, although I did see an elaborate one of a women making bobbin-lace.
Räuchermann figurines originated in the Ore Mountains (called the Erzgebirge in Germany), a region on the border of Germany and the Czech Republic, and many are still handmade there. You can read about them here.
The photos show my own little Räuchermann, in the style of a Waldmann or woodsman. He’s hand-carved and beautifully made with a little bundle of wood, a walking stick and a wide-brimmed hat with a pinecone. I just couldn’t resist. I found him at a shop called Käthe Wohlfahrt that specializes in fancy german-made Christmas decorations. It’s a really fun place to browse. I also got two varieties of incense to go with him – sandalwood and “christmas”, which is a bit like gingerbread. Even the incense is handmade by little elves… well ok, maybe not, but it’s a cheery image!