Thursday, December 9, 2010

German Smoker Santas

Fifteen years ago, I had the fantastic opportunity to travel for my job quite a bit.  I often found myself in Germany, and sometimes at Christmas time.  Germany is a beautiful country, with lots of wonderful people, food and customs.  In particular, Christmas time in Germany is lovely, with so many traditions that resonate with me and my family.

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, "Fröhliche Weihnachten"!

Linking to Tinsel & Co. Deck the Halls Friday.


  1. Those are true treasures! I love them all. How wonderful that you got to travel to Germany. I would love to go there some day!!

    Merry Christmas

  2. Santa really shouldn't smoke but they sure are cute! :) Love your tree too!


  3. Love the Santa smokers.
    Happy Holidays

  4. I had never heard of nor seen a "Santa Smoker" before...LOL, I almost typed "smocker"...can you tell I do a lot of heirloom sewing? :-D

    This is a wonderful collection of some unusual pieces & I like the way you have them displayed so beautifully.
    Hope you're having a very special Holiday Season!

  5. Hi Jenny,
    What a wonderful collection! I wondered how they worked and if it discolored them...thanks for answering that question. If I ever collect any, I'll be sure to just admire them and not actually use them. I don't care too much for the smell of incense...although, I love a scented candle. :)
    Merry Christmas!

  6. Hi Jenny,
    I loved you post on the smoker santa collections. I had the opportunity to visit the German Christmas Markets two years ago. It was absolutely magical! I stayed in the Wettiner Hohe in Seifen. We spent several days in the quaint shops of this beautiful village. You can actually watch the craftsmen make the smokers. Yours are absolutely beautiful. I don't think people realize the time and skill that are required in making these works of art. Thanks so much for your beautiful blog.

  7. Hi Jenny,
    thanks for stopping by my blog. i really like your santa claus collection. they look great as a center piece


  8. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. After all I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!
    beard grooming products