German word of the day: Das Räuchermännchen

Here's why a little smoking man is part of Germany's Christmas traditions

German word of the day: Das Räuchermännchen
Photo: DPA

Among many Christmas traditions, such as the Advent wreath, this is a true German tradition.

What does it mean?

“Räuchermännchen” translates to smoking manikin, and refers to an incense smoker, originally, in the form of a wooden man that is 15 cm-40 cm tall.

Nowadays, you can also find animal figurines and other varieties of the “Räuchermännchen” with different themes and motifs such as snowmen or Santa Clause.

A “Räuchermännchen” breathing smoke, Photo: DPA

What is the history behind the “Räuchermännchen”?

The “Räuchermännchen” is a invention of toy makers of the “Erzgebirge” (Ore mountain region of Germany).

Around 1820-1830 is when the first “Räuchermännchen” appeared.The idea and inspiration for the “Räuchermännchen” probably stems from actual human pipe smokers and a fondness for tobacco.

The material of the first figurines were made from paper and dough, and later from wood.

Their purpose is to burn off incense candles and incense cones and spread a fragrant scent around the house.

A few of the most common scents are fir, lavender, coffee, and frankincense.

READ ALSO: What’s the history behind Germany’s Christmas traditions?

How does a “Räuchermännchen” work?

The hollow turned body of the figurines allows for the candles to slowly burn out in the inside.

As they are made of two parts, it permits a steady airflow, that comes through the mouth of the figurine, making it look like the man is smoking.


“Magst du mal das Räuchermännchen anzünden? Es duftet immer so schön.”

“Would you light the incense smoker? It always smells so nice.”

“Lasst uns mal ein neues Räuchermännchen kaufen. Vielleicht in Form eines Hundes oder so.”

“Let’s buy a new incense smoker. Maybe in form of a dog or so.”


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German word of the day: Isso

Perhaps you've seen this word on social media and you're not sure what it means. Let us explain...

German word of the day: Isso

Why do I need to know isso?

Because it’s a nice colloquial expression to use if you’re feeling a little lazy since it combines a few words. It was also one of Germany’s favourite youth words back in 2016, although it’s definitely not particularly cool anymore and is used by all ages

What does it mean?

Isso is derived from the statement: ist so (short for es ist so) meaning ‘it’s like this’ or ‘it is so’ in English. When used as a response to someone’s statement, it usually means you completely agree. A good translation is: ‘right on!’, yes, that’s exactly right!’ or ‘it’s true!’.

You can also use the expression yourself to emphasise your thought. In this case you’d add it on at the end of your sentence. You often find isso used on Twitter, when someone is quoting a Tweet.

It can also be used in a more downbeat form accompanied by the shrugging of your shoulders. In this case you’re saying isso, because it can’t be helped, it’s the way it is. 

Use it like this: 

– Wir müssen gegen steigende Mietpreise in Berlin demonstrieren.

– Isso! 

– We have to protest against rising rents in Berlin. 

– That’s exactly right!

Frauen sind die besten Autofahrer, isso!

Women are the best drivers, it’s true.