German word of the day: Das Räuchermännchen

German word of the day: Das Räuchermännchen
Photo: DPA
Here's why a little smoking man is part of Germany's Christmas traditions

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.

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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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