Over a period of at least 5 thousand years, incense, similar to gold, spices and gems, has often been one of the more precious items that have been given to royalty and noblemen. It in addition, has been directly connected with religion. Indeed, the bible speaks of the 3 Magi giving gifts consisting of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The utilization of incense is alive and well in a lot of German celebrations. Continuing an enduring German custom, on January 6th of each year many German people will celebrate the Heilige Drei Konig (Three Saint Kings) festival. The special occasion of the 3 Wise Men is a state holiday in certain areas of Germany.
The Raunachte is another intriguing time of the season. It gets started on the evening of Christmas Day and takes place until January 6th. This includes 12 nights, the last six nights of the old year and the beginning 6 of the new year. Old beliefs and practices have evolved around these twelve nights. In keeping with German superstitions, Odin, the huntsman, is believed to move over the sky during these long winter nights, terrifying anyone who runs into him during his moves through the night. Not only is Odin on the prowl, Frau Holle, his wife, is supposed to be also.
It could be that the most dreaded of all is Berchta. She is honored as the goddess of the winter season. Berchta is thought to wander the country side and enters residences on Twelfth Night. She would know whether or not young children and young laborers had completed their tasks throughout the year. They could possibly be treated with a small coin if they had completed their duties well. If not, it was feared that she might carve their stomachs open and stuff the opening with rocks, twigs or straw. She was mainly determined to find out that adolescent girls had spun their complete measure of flax throughout the year.
Religion combined with folk stories and legends generated many people that were convinced that the evil spirits of the Raunaechte (longest nights of the year) might be driven off by loud sounds and illumination. After the evil spirits had departed from the home, the villagers would then burn incense to bless the dwelling. Lighted incense would be moved to every single room within the house on special occasions like the feast of Epiphany, New Year’s Eve and Christmas Eve in hopes of trying to keep the bad spirits at bay. From these stories came the great importance of incense in Germany. All through this time frame, fragrant incense was nearly always burnt in the open, but this would soon change.
After the 30 year war came to an end, the principles of medieval piety and ordinary folk were joined together to contribute to fresh methods for burning incense. Rauchermann, or smoking men figurines, came into being. Smoking men are classic hand made wood items that started out within the Miriquidi Forest, which is now called the Erzgebirge Mountains (Ore Mountains).
Very many years ago the hillside of the Erzgebirge Mountains were mined for minerals and precious metals. The folk that would work in the mines during the working day would frequently be seen crafting wood toy figures during the night time. Subsequently, when finding precious metal in the mountain range began to become scarce, which ended in the closing of the mines, lots of the original miners became wooden toy makers full time.
Incense smokers were an item the miners created, and usually looked like miniature replicas of people that resided and worked in the community, like mail carriers, hunters, peddlers as well as the village folk too.
The well known Steinbach family, that has become famous for producing German folk art for 5 generations, has mastered the art and craft of making nutcrackers and incense smokers. Every single one of their smokers symbolize a certain German character in detail. They all have their very own individual attributes. Steinbach and their smoking men and nutcrackers are known all over the globe for having quality craftsmanship, know-how and paying attention to details.
Smoking men have evolved into a favorite part of Christmas traditions over time. Many collectors now display Steinbach nutcrackers and smoking men to adorn their households all through the Christmas holiday. The next time you get a chance to examine a Steinbach nutcracker, examine it thoroughly. You may find many distinctive features you never noticed before.
Visit a German Collectibles Haus to see the newest Steinbach Nutcracker and Smoker models from Germany.