Folk Stories and Religious Beliefs Inspired Creating German Nutcrackers and Smoking Men

Published: 26th October 2010
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Over a span of at least five millennia, fragrant incense, as with gold, scented oils and perfumes, has continually been one of the most cherished gifts that have been presented to royalty and emperors. It in addition, has been intimately connected with religious beliefs throughout history. For that matter, the holy book describes the 3 Magi offering up gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Incense still plays an important role in German festivals and celebrations. Continuing an enduring German tradition, January 6th brings around the Heilige Drei Konig or 3 Wise Men celebration. It's a state holiday in Bavaria, Baden Wurttemberg and Sachsen-Anhalt.

The Raunachte is a much commemorated time of the season. It gets started on the evening of Christmas Day and takes place until January 6th. This covers 12 nights, the last six nights of the old year and the first six of the new. Ancient beliefs and practices have evolved involving these 12 nights. According to German folklore, the wild huntsman Odin is believed to journey over the air during these chilly winter nights, terrifying every one who runs into him during his travels. Odin isn't the only one to be on the prowl during these nights, but also his wife, Frau Holle.

Most likely the most frightening of all things moving about in the night is Berchta. She is named as the goddess of the winter season. She is supposedly moves through the countryside and enters dwellings on Twelfth Night. She would be aware of whether or not young children and younger laborers had carried out their duties throughout the past year. They could be rewarded with a small coin if they had accomplished their duties adequately. If not, it was believed that she would most likely cut their stomachs open and load them with hay, sticks or rocks. She was most engaged in observing that girls had spun their full quota of wool and flax all through the year.

Religion bundled with folk tales and mythology generated people that thought that the evil spirits during the Raunaechte (longest nights of the year) could be made to leave by noise and illumination. As soon as these wicked spirits had left the household, they would burn incense to bless the dwelling. They would take incense to every single room in the house on Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve or the feast of Epiphany in hopes of driving off all traces of the wicked spirits. These superstitions began the great importance of incense among German folk. At this stage in history, fragrant incense was nearly always burnt in the open, but it would not take long until this practice would be changed.

After the 30 year war came to an end, the philosophy of medieval piety and everyday people were merged to contribute to fresh methods involving using incense. Smokers, also known as "Rauchermann", were invented. Incense burning smoking men are traditional hand made wooden pieces that started out within the Miriquidi Forest, which is now known as the Erzgebirge Mountains.

A long time ago the forests of the Erzgebirge Mountains were burrowed through in search of gold, tin ore and other minerals. The men that normally would perform duties inside the mines throughout the working day were likely to be found working on wooden toy figures at night. Eventually, when locating iron ore in the mountain range began to become hard to find, and the mines started closing, a large number of the original miners started to be making wooden toys for a living.

Incense smokers became an item the miners crafted, and commonly looked like miniature reproductions of people that resided or worked there, which included bakers, fishermen, shepherds and in many cases the town folk themselves.

One of Germany's most recognized crafting families is the Steinbach family, which has become famous for creating German folk art for 5 generations, has mastered the making of making smoking men and nutcrackers. Each of their incense smokers depict a specific German character in fine detail. They all have their very own unique personalities. Steinbach and their smokers are known throughout the world for having high quality workmanship, capabilities and giving attention to detail.

Incense smokers have become a popular part of holiday traditions in recent times. Lots of individuals now display Steinbach nutcrackers and smokers to adorn their homes all through the Christmas holiday. The next time you get a chance to examine a Steinbach smoker, give it a careful inspection. You might see several original details you hadn't noticed before.

You can visit a German Collectibles Haus to see the newly released Steinbach Nutcrackers and Smokers.

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