During my visits there, my German hosts helped me choose some authentic hand-made German incense smokers, or Räuchermänner. They taught me that I need to look for the mark "Erzgebirgische Volkskunst", which indicates that the item was crafted in Germany according to time-honored traditions.
The first smoker was developed around 1850 in Heidelberg close to Seiffen. At first dough served as material. Mostly figures of the everyday life were used as motif. Nowadays Santa Claus figures and other modern motifs are also manufactured. You can find salesmen, bakers, foresters, miners, chimney sweepers, standing smokers, edge stools smokers, large smokers, small smokers and so on. I love the Santa figures, and focused my collection on those.
The smokers are hollow, and are created in two pieces. the body lifts up off of the legs. You can place a small cone of incense inside, and light the incense. The smoke come out the smoker's mouth to scent your home. I tried this with the first smoker I brought home. I didn't care for the scent, I must say, and I was disappointed that the smoke caused discoloration on the Santa's soft white fur beard. So I've not used incense inside the smokers, I just enjoy their looks during the holidays.
This was the first Santa smoker that I bought. I remember that I was sight-seeing in the famous Marienplatz in Munich, and there was a wonderful gift shop that had hundreds and hundreds of Erzgebirgisch collectible items. I had a difficult time choosing, but settled on this one because it was the right size for carrying home with me in my carry-on bag, and it wasn't outrageously expensive, only moderately expensive. ;-)
I picked this one up in Bonn, a pretty little town in northern Germany where Beethoven was born.
A couple of years later, I picked up this one in Cologne. I chose this one because it was all wood toned, and showed the beauty of the wood itself.
My husband traveled to Germany one time, and brought this one back for me. He's a bit larger than the others, and has such a soft beard made of rabbit fur.
This one is different from the others because he is more decoratively painted than typically done. This is a Kathe Wohlfahrt figure. He's so handsome and welcoming!
I've arranged the smokers on the dining room table with some simple greenery and a few candles. It makes for a nice display as you enter our home, and highlights these pieces as the treasures that they are.
Merry Christmas! or should I say, "