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German Nutcrackers & Smoking Men

German Nutcrackers

Nutcrackers originated in the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge) of Germany where tin and silver mining were the major industries until the mines were depleted. Because wood was plentiful, the miners taught themselves woodcarving for their livelihood. The nutcrackers represented th fact that they had “to crack a tough nut” (a German expression referring to someone who has big problems). Nutcracker kings, policemen, soldiers, and other military figures were very popular because th woodcarvers enjoyed having these figures of authority to “crack their tough nuts.” Over the year, nutcrackers became popular collectible items and today, figures of folklore and daily life are produced along with the traditional figures.

German Smoking Men: Extraordinary Incense Burners

For five thousand years, like gold, spices and gems, incense has been among the most precious gifts of kings and emperors. It has also been closely connected with religion since the Three Wise Men offered the baby Jesus gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The festival of the Three Wise Men is still celebrated in Germany on January 6.

It was also believe that the evil spirits of the “Raunachte” (longest night of the year) could be driven away by noise and light. Once the house was cleared of demons, fine incense was burned to bless hearth and home.

After the 30-years war (1618–1648) that was fought in the heart of Germany, medieval piety and folk art combined to bring about new forms to burn incense. Thus the smoking men, carved and turned from wood, were born in the Miriquidi Forest, later known as the Erzebirge. Over the years, all kinds and types of smoking men were designed: professional people, folk characters, tradesmen, and forest workers. Although characters come and go, the popularity of smoking men among collectors worldwide has insured a variety of smokers currently numbering around 200. We start our season with about 75 different varieties so that’s the best time to take a look.

Directions: Separate the smoking man or woman at the place where it comes apart. Light a cone of incense and allow the flame to disappear so the cone is smoldering. Place the cone on the metal plate located on the lower half of the smoking man or woman. Replace the top half and watch your rauchermann (smoking man) puff.