WOOD-TURNED INCENSE SMOKERS ARE A TYPICALLY GERMAN CHRISTMAS TRADITION:
On our final night in Munich we decide to go back to the Chinesischer Turm Weihnachtsmarkt (Chinese Tower Christmas Market) in the English Garden, a ten-minute walk from the Hilton Munich Park Hotel where we are staying. There is not much, in the way of cafés or restaurants, around the Hilton Munich Park Hotel, so the Christmas market is a blessing for us.
Christmas Market Shopping
Being a Monday night, we are surprised to find that this small Christmas market near the northeastern city limits of Munich is as busy as it is. After a snack of pizza and glühwein, we stroll around the market grounds and Tony spots a stall bursting with displays of cute and well-made woodcrafts and papercuts.
The stallholder has a jolly face and Tony asks if he can take a picture of the stall. Peter Wittmann, the owner, is very obliging and even sticks his head out from behind the goods so that Tony has a clear view of him and his stall.
A Christmas Tradition
A yellow wood figure depicting a photographer catches Tony’s attention and he soon begins to develop a bond with his “fellow photographer”. As we take a closer look at it, Peter goes on to explain that the figures are actually incense burners. He disassembles a figure and lights the incense burner, showing us how smoke flows out of the mouth, as if the figure is smoking. According to Peter, these German incense smokers (Räuchermännchen) are a very traditional craftwork and many German families have them on display in their homes at Christmas time.
German Incense Smokers
The wood-turned incense burners mostly depict figures of everyday people and their professions. You can choose from figures such as bakers, foresters, hunters, miners or chimney sweepers, but there are also professional figures of lawyers, priests, doctors, pilots and painters.
The incense smoker is made up of two pieces, has a hollow body and it usually has a pipe in his mouth – in the mid-19th century, when this woodcraft was first created, smoking was popular. The tiny incense cone is placed into the lower part of the body and when lit, smoke streams out of the mouth of the smoker, providing a flow of aroma throughout the room.
We like the burning incense and so we buy Tony’s photographer as well as a couple other figures for gifts – they cost Euros 20 each. The incense sticks come packs of 24 and each pack costs Euros 2. According to Peter, the incense stick burns for 20 minutes, but the incense smell lasts for two hours. There is a wide range of different fragrances, from the classical Christmas fragrances such as fir tree or gingerbread to lavender or lemon. Peter recommends the pine as that is his favourite.
The woodcarvings are made by Peter himself and his shop/factory is about 50 minutes away from Munich. He asks if we are buying the burners for gifts, and kindly gives a gift bag for each figurine which comes in a cardboard box. He then steps out from behind the stall to hand us our bag of goodies so that we can take a picture with him.
Our suitcases are already bursting with things that we’ve been buying along our Christmas market trip, and we regret not being able to buy more of Peter’s woodcraft. Never mind, this gives us an excuse to come back again to enjoy this cozy Munich Christmas market. In the meantime, we get to enjoy a bit of German Christmas tradition in our home.
If you’re in Munich at Christmas time, pay a visit to Peter’s stall at the Chinesischer Turm Weihnachtsmarkt. Apart from the wood figures, he also has cardboard cuttings and other Christmas decorations.
Chinesischer Turm Weihnachtsmarkt
Englischer Garten 3
Map of Chinesischer Turm