… das kann nur ein Schornsteinfeger sein!
Welcome to week 3 of our Infosheets!
This week revolves all around uncommon jobs. The Infosheet touched on jobs such as Imker/-innen (beekeepers), Seiler/-innen (rope makers), Geigenbauer/-innen (luthiers) and Glasbläser/-innen (glassblowers), so we thought we’d introduce you to another somewhat uncommon job in Germany – and almost unheard of in Australia – the Schornsteinfeger (chimney sweeper).
Let’s go back in time…
Approximately 400-300 years BC, around the time of Alexander the Great, houses were warmed up using portable brasiers. The Romans were the first to use pipes made out of clay to channel warm water or air throughout their houses. The next development in heating was the creation of fireplaces, however, this, predictably, created the problem of smoke filled-rooms. Initially, builders simply made small holes in the wall or roof to allow the smoke to escape, however, this still left rooms covered in soot.
Fast forward a few years to the creation of the first castles and monasteries – these were the first multi-storey buildings made out of brick. Due to the layout of these buildings, people were forced to find new ways to remove the smoke created by fireplaces, and so, the first chimney was built! Originally, the fireplace was built in the middle of a room, with a brick funnel structure built around it and two smoke ducts leading the smoke out into the open.
With the increasing popularity of chimneys, the demand for chimney sweepers grew almost exponentially. Nowadays houses are generally fitted with central heating, although there are still some chimney sweepers working in Germany to clean chimneys, pipes and fire places in older buildings. Approximately 800 students have started their apprenticeship as a chimney sweeper in Germany this year!
Most of us know that chimney sweepers are considered good luck. It’s good luck to see one on your wedding day (especially shaking his hand or being kissed by him!), see one early in the morning or be greeted by one holding a pig on New Year’s Day. So where did this tradition come from?
The association of chimney sweepers with luck can be found throughout folklore. For example, one legend, started in medieval England, says that the King was saved by a chimney sweep, and the King hence declared that they should be regarded as lucky. Another says that a chimney sweeper lost his footing and dangled from the roof of a house, when a young lady, who was promised to marry another, took his hand and pulled him into safety – the two fell in love and were married shortly after; since then, seeing a chimney sweep on your wedding day has been regarded as good luck.
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