The History of German Smokers
The History of German Smokers
The German smoker has a long and interesting history that tells of the ingenuity and hardworking spirit that makes the German people so interesting and traditional in their ways of life. From the earliest beginnings of Christianity to the heartache of war to the long held traditions that make the German people some of the greatest craftsmen in the world, the German smoker is a very special gift that has filled the homes and hearts of many families with joy for generations.
The use of incense has been prized by people throughout the world for thousands of years. Incense was often considered a treasured gift by the peoples of the Middle-East, India, Africa, and Europe. For centuries, incense was used for religious ceremonies and other important events as a way to cleanse the air of evil spirits. It was used in trade and was considered a highly treasured commodity. Perhaps the most important gift of incense was given to the baby Jesus in honor of his birth by the Three Wise Men. After a long journey to find the baby Jesus, the Three Wise Men gave their most precious gifts to him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts are still celebrated today in Germany during the Festivity of The Three Wise Men. In Germany, Christmas lasts for twelve days, from December 25th through January 6th. Each of The Twelve Days of Christmas has special meaning, with the final day celebrating the gifts of the Three Wise Men. On this day, many people celebrate by lighting incense and placing them in their German smokers to mark the end of the Christmas season.
While incense has been used for centuries, the German smoker has only been in existence for a few hundred years. The earliest German smokers, or Rauchermen, first came into existence in the late 1600s in the Miriquidi Forest area of southeastern Germany. Local artisans designed these tiny figurines by carving and turning them out of a single piece of wood that was prevalent in the mountainous region. While German smokers are the main source of income for this area of Germany today, this was not always the case. Since the 1100s, the Miriquidi Forest, or the Erzgebirge Mountain area as it's called today, as been a rich and prosperous mining area. The first mines were found to be rich in silver and the area boomed as people moved to the remote area to work the mines. This silver rush lasted for nearly 250 years and brought the area much needed wealth. Around the mid-1400s, the silver mines began to run out and tin mining replaced silver mining. The mountain region again expanded and its population soared. Unfortunately, during the 1600s, the Swedish began invading the area and started a 30 years war that virtually decimated the region, killing or driving out many of the people of the once prosperous mining villages.
During this time, the traditions of the German smokers and other handmade woodworking crafts were not lost, but they still didn't come into their own until the mid-1800s. By this time, most of the silver and tin mines were tapped out, but new technologies and industrialization searched for other resources to be mined. As the mining industry struggled to produce, the people who remained in the area searched for other ways to earn a living without having to abandon their way of life and move into the cities. It was at this time that the traditional woodworking skills began to pay off as many families began producing handmade toys and collectibles, such as German smokers, nutcrackers, and ornaments. Individual families began producing their own unique products and the entire area established itself as the premier toy and collectible-making region of Europe. As they perfected styles and began developing more efficient ways of making their wood carved creations, their products were shipped throughout Europe and the United States, making them known around the world.
During World War II, the Erzgebirge mines were mainly producing uranium, but toy making and woodworking became the main source of income for the people of the region. German smokers became highly sought after, along with other woodworking collectibles. Fortunately, due to the remoteness of the mountainous region, the Erzgebirge villages remained relatively unaffected by the war. As the war was lost in Germany and the entire area tried to recover from the effects, the production of these handcrafted products managed to survive and began to prosper again in the years after the end of the war. Today, the area is world famous for making a variety of handmade woodcrafts and family names of the region, such as Glasser, Mueller, Steinbach, and Dregeno are synonymous with German smokers throughout the world.
The traditional German smoker has undergone a few changes over the years. The first Rauchermen were originally one piece and incense was place on a tray next to the figurines, rather than inside of them. Incense cones were developed around the late 1700s and German smokers were made from two pieces of wood that fit together to create one body. A small incense cone could then be placed inside the smoker, allowing it to burn efficiently and causing the smoke to more effectively come out of the figurine's mouth to create the recognizable Germen smokers of today. One of the things that make German smokers so unique is the fact that they are generally carved in the image of the "every day man" rather than after political, military, or religious figures. German smokers are traditionally carved in the shapes of working men, such as miners, shepherds, farmers, chimneysweepers, carpenters, and other every day workers. This is perhaps what has made the German smokers so popular throughout history because they honor the work of the common man rather than that of the more visible or famous figures of ancient and modern times.