Thank You for Smoking

By , December 17, 2016

We maintain a strict non-smoking household. Michelle has reacted so badly to cigarette smoke throughout her life, that we just say, for the sake of simplicity, that she’s allergic to it. Psychologically, she could well be. This has never been an issue here. We have very few local friends who smoke. I don’t think any of them smoke in their own homes, let alone anyone else’s.

Ironically, while we forbid tobacco smoke, we welcome incense into our home, particularly at Christmas time.

Santa Claus enjoys his pipe (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Santa Claus enjoys his pipe (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

We have a collection of German Christmas decorations, including traditionally-made nutcrackers and three smokers. Our smokers are a pirate, a lovely potbellied stove (which earned pride of place throughout the year) and, my favorite, Saint Nicholas.

For those who may not know, German smokers are traditionally tradespeople lathed from wood, generally linden, into incense burners. Most hold a pipe or cigar, and the incense vents through a mouth hole, making them appear to smoke. Others vent in a way that indicates steam, such as the pot on top of our wood stove smoker, or loaves of bread and similar contrivances.

We got our first smoker, the Saint Nicholas (or Weihnachtsmann) in 1984. I reserve particular incense cones for it and the Christmas season, pine and bayberry. These cones are so large, and pump out so much smoke, that I’m very careful about lighting them. Often, I wait till I’m home alone. The incense permeates the house and diminishes a bit by the time everyone arrives at home, leaving a gentle fragrance rather than a thick pall.

Truthfully, I am a little concerned about possible health issues surrounding incense burning. I do make sure we have adequate ventilation when it’s burning. And, I try not to overdo it.

Even so, burning the incense in the smoker provides pleasant entertainment. The curling smoke creates a Christmas decoration of its own. When the light’s right, I try to take photos.

"...and the smoke encircled his head like a wreath..." (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

“…and the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath…” (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

A family treasure, with a smoking habit... (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

A family treasure, with a smoking habit… (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).


A scene from Christmas 2011 (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

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