Smoking in Advent with recipe ideas

Rough nights & customs in Salzburgerland

by Silja / 16. Dezember 2021 / Nature / Tradition

Räuchern in den Raunächten © Silja Parke - Wildemö

Old traditions and mystical nights in Tennengau

There is a lot of smoking around Christmas time and around the turn of the year. The old tradition, which never completely disappeared in our region and was always cultivated in Salzburg, is now enjoying increasing popularity again with many. Today I will tell you about the customs in Advent, smoking in the dark nights and give you some smoking tips for inspiration to try out yourself at home. Make yourself comfortable, drink a soothing tea and immerse yourself in the world of incense mixtures and traditions related to smoking in Salzburgerland.

The power of fire and smoke

Fire has always had a magical attraction for us humans. On the one hand it inspires us as a force of nature, on the other hand it fulfills basic human needs such as protection, security, warmth and a warm meal. One can say that it unites in itself the quality of the destructive and the life-giver at the same time. A certain magic has been attributed to fire since ancient times, which is due to its power of transformation - matter becomes ash and smoke and prepares the field for something new.

After a forest fire, for example, we can observe how a flourishing and friendly habitat emerges again from an apparently hostile environment, from the ashes.

The idea of ​​dissolving old things, transforming them and letting them be removed is associated with smoke. But smoke is also understood as a connection between heaven and earth, for example as a bridge to the gods and ancestors. In this context, smoking can also express appreciation or serve as a question and intercession.

Many smoking rituals are based on the course of the year; they contain the idea that the circle of life closes again and again. Life follows birth, life follows death, light follows darkness and vice versa. The wheel keeps turning and creating something new.

Before people discovered how to make fires themselves, they tried to keep natural fires burning, such as those caused by lightning strikes or volcanic activity. The ability to make fire by oneself finally led to the settling down of people in the Stone Age. They were now able to farm and raise livestock by means of slash-and-burn operations and fire management, store their supplies in fired clay pots and use the smoke to preserve food. The more easily digestible cooked food made more energy available to the brain, which led to its further development. Man owes his development to fire. Sitting by a crackling fire and watching smoke rise is something deeply archaic for us humans and actually touches the soul of everyone. The relationship to fire is deeply anchored in us and we also feel it when smoking. When exactly people discovered smoking is not known exactly, they probably discovered it quite simply in everyday life.

Räuchern © Silja Parke - Wildemö

Smoking in the alpine tradition

Smoking is an integral part of the Alpine tradition and is still carried on today, especially in many farming families. However, it is becoming increasingly popular among other parts of the population and is now often implemented individually and without adhering to fixed procedures.

In the past, people smoked mainly with resins and herbs that were collected on the roadsides and on the mountain pastures and dried for smoking purposes. Today, especially around Christmas time, you can buy all kinds of incense, mixtures and utensils in shops and markets, including non-domestic incense, such as styrax, sandalwood, jasmine blossoms or mastic.

TIP: When buying, you should pay attention to natural incense that is free from artificial additives and fragrances.

We also call local resins such as spruce, larch or stone pine pitch "Alpine frankincense". Today they are popular again and used to be a good alternative to “exotic” and expensive resins such as myrrh and real frankincense. You can easily collect the resins from the conifers while walking in the forest by carefully breaking off small, at best hardened drops or scraping them off with a stick. Paper bags or screw-top jars are suitable for transport.

Baumharz © Silja Parke - Wildemö

Mixtures of herbs and ingredients from the consecrated palm tree and the "Assumption herbs", which the dairymaid collected on the alpine pastures and brought to the valley for consecration, as well as consecrated incense were and are also used. Common smoked herbs include mugwort, valerian, elderflower, St. John"s wort and yarrow, all of which are known as "protective herbs". Wormwood, juniper and thyme belong in the "house and yard smoking" and are considered cleansing, verbena is smoked, among other things, in disputes and meadowsweet to encourage new beginnings.

Advent and winter solstice

At the winter solstice on Thomas"s Night on December 21st, the light is reborn, so to speak. The sun is at its lowest point, it is the shortest day and the longest night. It still takes some time before the increase in day length can be felt again and the light stabilizes. The dark nights following the winter solstice are considered the darkest nights of the year. In pagan customs this was a very important time in the seasonal festival circle.

Many events in the Christian festival circle have their origins in the pre-Christian past and so Advent, our Christmas festival and the birth of the Light Bringer Jesus Christ do not coincide with this time. The term Advent comes from the Latin for “arrival”, actually “adventus Domini”, meaning the arrival of the Lord. In the Advent season we prepare for the arrival of the "Light Bringer" and express our anticipation. Pre-Christian and Christian rituals mix here, such astying wreaths from evergreen branches. The four candles symbolize the light. With every week that we light one more candle, we are approaching the winter solstice and the birth of Jesus Christ or, from a pre-Christian perspective, of light. The shape of the wreath stands for the cycle of life and the evergreen for the everlasting and immortal power of the ever-renewing life.

Rough nights - the dark nights

In pre-Christian times, the new birth of light was celebrated at the winter solstice on December 21st. It now takes a few days for the light to stabilize. The following rough nights are therefore also referred to as the "dark nights" but also as the "holy nights". They are considered the darkest time of the year. Astronomically, the period results from the mathematical difference between the lunar and solar years. The moon needs 29.5 days for its orbit, if you multiply this number by twelve orbits per year, you get 354 days and not 365. The difference is 11 to 12 days (for leap years with 366 days, exactly 12 days).

Raunächte © Silja Parke - Wildemö

The determination of the Raunacht time is a matter of interpretation. Assuming January 1st, the lunar year ends on December 21st. With this interpretation, the room nights begin on December 21st and end on January 1st. In the Christian interpretation, the rough nights begin on December 25th with Christmas and end on January 6th on Epiphany. A rough night begins at midnight and ends at midnight. How you interpret the period for yourself is, in my view, not that important at the present time. You can simply use them to become aware of the quality of the season, to reflect, to put away the old, to mentally form the new and to mentally adjust to the new year. Since most of the time today Advent is perceived as an exhausting time, smoking can also simply serve to relieve stress, come down and focus.

Explanation of terms: The origin of the word "Raunacht" or "Rauhnacht" has not yet been clarified. One explanation derives the term from the traditional smoking (night of smoke) of houses and stables by the priest or farm farmer with incense.

Customs in the dark nights

Leave the old behind and ask for luck and blessings for the new

In the dark nights, the whole family usually gathers to go through the house and the stable with the censer. Together we prayed, thanked for the past year of work and asked for the new blessings. In addition to smoking into the furthest corners, the rooms, stables and animals are often sprinkled with holy water in order to bless them. Especially on Epiphany, this “house and yard smoking” is still very widespread.

New beginning and cleaning

With the smoking in the rough nights, an old cycle is passed and the way is paved for a new beginning time, originally the new working year in agriculture that begins in spring. Even a series of unfortunate, past events can, according to the imagination, be interrupted and left behind by smoking.

The smoking during the noisy nights is therefore to be regarded, among other things, as cleaning and is usually associated with the physical cleaning of the house, i.e. house cleaning. The old is swept out, put back and let go so that a new cycle can begin. This custom is based on the cycle in nature, which has always been closely observed by people who are close to nature. Apparently nature is still asleep, but the buds on the trees are already swelling barely noticeably and even below the ground, plants and animals are getting ready for the new start in spring with increasing light.

Since farmers, like hardly any other profession, still live from the “benevolence” of nature today, it is obvious that this tradition has persisted to the present day.

We can now feel this awakening not only in nature, but also in ourselves. Almost intuitively, almost all of us try to do a lot more at the end of the year in order to complete the old and leave behind us. We clean, sort out and want to start the new year virtually blank, like a "blank sheet of paper", without any legacy and motivated.

Räuchern in der Raunacht © Silja Parke - Wildemö

In the smoke the cloudy veil rises symbolically, which lies like a layer of dust over the old year. It dissolves and thus helps to purify yourself mentally. When smoking, the scent of the smoked substances has an indirect effect on the limbic system of our brain without being filtered by the mind. This evolutionarily oldest part of our brain is responsible, among other things, for our emotions and for learning progress. Therefore, the scents trigger feelings in us and set processes in our body rolling, because they are linked to experiences stored in the limbic system. We therefore react immediately to fragrances with approval, rejection or certain associations and, for example, by smoking certain substances, we can feel relaxed, grounded, purified or motivated. In this way, smoking can also clear up the "bad air" in the house and make a positive contribution to disputes.

The rough nights are used by many people to review the old again, to leave the undesirable behind, if necessary, and to dare to look into the future. Accordingly, some rituals stipulate that each of the 12 rough nights stands for one of the 12 previous months of the year. In the respective Raunacht (1 = January, 2 = February etc.) you think again about what happened in the month in question and draw your conclusions from it. Many people also use the first 6 rough nights for looking back and cleaning and the following 6 rough nights for previewing, making plans and asking for blessings.

Protection and defense

Protective and defensive smoking is old hat. They appear again and again in old stories and in herbal traditions. The need for protective and defensive smoking in the noisy nights was justified by the Percht, among other things, which, as a legendary figure, is associated with Frau Holle. The figure embodies the former goddess of vegetation, who moves into the underworld in winter and watches over the dead. Your area of ​​responsibility spans the entire spectrum of life, from fertility to new life and death. In the rough nights it was believed that the gates to the beyond were wide open and that restless souls were out there who could not find peace.

With her "wild entourage" the Percht roamed the land in the rough nights and took the wandering souls with her to the otherworld. This caused discomfort. So that bad luck didn"t fall on you, they smoked and there were many rules that should be followed. For example, no laundry was allowed to be hung up and no work could be done. In the dark one no longer went outside and it was customary to put offerings in front of the door to appease the "savages". Anyone who did not adhere to it was threatened with disaster. It is still believed today that the animals begin to talk to each other on Christmas night, which is why one shouldn"t go into the stable after the incense, because the one who listens will be faced with unhappiness or even the next one Year not survive.

Tiere im Stall @ Canva - Susuma

Incense mixes for Advent and dark nights

Whether clinging to the old customs, inspired by specially devised rituals or just to have a pleasant scent in the house. Smoking is fun, brings relaxation and joy into the house and there are countless possibilities.

How is smoking done?

For smoking there are, among other things, specially designed, fireproof vessels, such as warmer, bowls and pans, e.g. to buy at the Arnika pharmacy in Puch These can consist of metal, stone or clay, among other things. A metal sieve is hung over a tea light in the warmer and the incense is placed on top. For a smoother smoking and to protect the sieve, some smoked sand can be sprinkled under the smoking material. This is available in the smoking section.

In order to “smoke” properly, the food to be smoked is placed on charcoal or hot embers from the wood stove. These are placed in the bowl or pan on smoked sand to avoid excessive heat development. A pan has the advantage that you can hold it by the handle and carry it around the house for a clean smoke. A feather can be used to fan the coal or embers and distribute the smoke. There are special smoking tongs and spoons for placing the food to be smoked and for positioning coal and embers. So that the smoked food doesn"t burn up immediately and then just smell burnt, you can also put some smoked sand on the charcoal. The food to be smoked is then pulverized a little in a mortar and gradually placed on top in small quantities. Burned food is removed before new ones are put on.

Tip: Mixtures do not necessarily have to be smoked, you can also simply apply individual incense substances such as resins, non-toxic leaves and flowers and try them out a little. Now in winter, dried fruit peels are great too. For this you can simply dry the peel of organic oranges, mandarins, apples etc. and use them. Christmas spices such as star anise, allspice or cinnamon are just as fine.

Alternatively, you can also build smoked pralines or, if you don"t like the smoke that much, you can make fragrant pralines for the fragrance lamp.

4 incense mixes for a contemplative Advent

Here I have summarized for you which of my 4 most popular incense mixes are for Christmas.

Räuchermischung © Silja Parke - Wildemöhre

1. Advent magic incense mixture to come down

Topics: love, harmony, heart openers, warmth, light, relaxation, joie de vivre, protection and blessings

1 teaspoon dried rose blossoms, 1 teaspoon dried sweet clover, cabbage and flowers, 1 teaspoon dried mistletoe, cabbage, 1/2 teaspoon dried alant, 1/2 teaspoon frankincense, 1/2 teaspoon myrrh, 1/4 pc. Tonka bean, roughly crushed in a mortar

Recommended smoking method: warmer

2. House and yard

Topics: cleaning, protection, blessing, house smoking

2 teaspoons of mullein, 2 teaspoons of juniper (needles and fruits), 1 teaspoon of mugwort or wormwood, 1 teaspoon of St. John"s wort, 1 teaspoon of thyme, 1 teaspoon of calamus root, 1 teaspoon of spruce resin

Recommended smoking method: On charcoal or embers in the smoking pan, warmer also possible

3. Good fortune and blessings

Topics: purification, protection, blessing, raucous nights, new beginnings

2 teaspoons thyme, 1 teaspoon verbena, 1/2 teaspoon alant root, 1/2 teaspoon calamus root, 1 teaspoon styrax

Recommended smoking method: On charcoal or embers in the smoking pan or gently on the warmer

4. On new paths

Topics: new beginnings, grounding

2 teaspoons of meadowsweet flowers and leaves, 2 teaspoons of elderflower, 1 teaspoon of myrrh

Recommended smoking method: warmer

Smoked praline

But it"s not just the simple incense mixes that create a decent Christmas scent in the house. Try making smoked pralines, they not only smell wonderful, but are also a great Christmas present for your loved ones.

Räucherpralinen © Silja Parke - Wildemö

In ancient Egypt, fragrant smoked pralines were made thousands of years ago. For this purpose, raisins were first placed in wine and then processed into a modeling clay with various resins and herbs and sometimes only dried for months before they were used - quite a complex matter. Inspired by this and by my herbalist colleagues Doris Kern (made with love) and Valerie Jarolim (Blatt & Dorn), I experimented with different shapes of pralines that are easier to make. There are no precise quantities for the recipes, which leaves plenty of room for creative freedom.

Spruce balls

Räucherpraline © Silja Parke - Wildemö

The fir balls can be placed on the warmer or on charcoal or embers. A gentle, very pleasant smoke results on the warmer. In order for the beads to stick together, you need a binding agent. I used astragalus powder for this (order it or ask at the pharmacy).

Ingredients: 40 g hardened spruce resin (either hard collected or hardened by drying), 50 g spruce needles, 10 g juniper berries, 1 tablespoon astragalus powder = about 15 g, water or hydrolate, a few drops of essential oil
How to do it:
  • Finely pulverize the spruce resin in a stone mortar (caution sticks! - I recommend cooking oil for cleaning gummy objects)
  • Dry the spruce needles, pulverize in a high-performance mixer, pass through a sieve to remove fibers and then pulverize again finer in the mixer if necessary.
  • Finely pulverize the juniper berries in a mortar or mixer.
  • Mix the resin, spruce (20 g - set aside), juniper and astragalus powder evenly together and gradually add enough liquid to create a kneadable and cohesive mass. The mass must not get too wet. For me it was about 7 tablespoons of spruce needle hydrolate (alternatively use water). If desired, stir a few drops of essential oil (up to 10 drops), for example spruce oil, into the liquid for a more intense fragrance.
  • Finally, form small balls and let them dry for a few days on a cloth or paper. I dried the pellets on the wood stove. So they were dry after just 1-2 days. Store in a box, jar or screw-top jar.

Forest toffee for the fragrance lamp

Wald-Toffee © Silja Parke - Wildemöhre

The small pralines are simply placed in the fragrance lamp, melt in it and spread a gentle scent without smoke. The praline can be used multiple times. Finally, you can remove the rest of the fragrance lamp with kitchen paper.

Ingredients: Toffee silicone mold, cocoa butter (I need approx. 125 g for my mold), powdered fir or spruce needles, dried fruits / herbs (for example orange peel, cinnamon bark or cinnamon blossoms, orange blossoms), essential oil if necessary
That"s how it works:
  • Dry the fir / spruce needles and pulverize them in a high-performance mixer (see recipe “Fichtenkugelchen.
  • Melt cocoa butter in a water bath and stir in some of the fir / spruce needle powder and, if desired, essential oils, for example 5 drops of spruce / fir and 5 drops of mandarine red / orange.
  • Distribute the dried fruits / herbs on the molds and fill up with the liquid cocoa butter-needle powder mixture.
  • Let cool and press the toffees out of the molds.
  • Keep in a box. The toffees shouldn"t touch.

Spruce resin drops

Fichtenharzdrops © Silja Parke - Wildemö

The drops can be used for smoking on the warmer, on charcoal or embers. If necessary, you can simply break it down a bit and smoke it.

Ingredients: candy form for drops, spruce resin, dried smoked food, for example powdered or coarsely ground spruce needles, orange peel, cinnamon bark or cinnamon blossoms, orange blossoms
That"s how it works:
  • Liquefy spruce resin in an old enamel pot (on the stove or wood stove). Caution! Use an old pot as it will be difficult to clean later. I have a pot that I use over and over again for this purpose.
  • Distribute the food to be smoked on the molds and then fill up with liquid spruce resin.
  • Let cool in the freezer. In this way, the drops can later be perfectly pressed out of the shape.
  • Keep the drops in a box, they must not touch, otherwise they will stick to each other.
  • Clean the molds with washing-up liquid, hot water and, if necessary, a little cooking oil.

Christmas incense bundle

Weihnachtsbündel © Silja Parke - Wildemöhre

Even bundles of incense are always something nice. For this, herbs and incense are formed into a bouquet, wrapped tightly with a natural, flammable thread and dried. For a Christmas bundle, you can use branches of conifers such as spruce, fir and pine as well as sage and also include orange peel and Ceylon cinnamon. The dried bundle is ignited at the top. By blowing you can then fan it further until it starts to smoke down. If you want to stop smoking, you can squeeze out the bundle in some sand and continue smoking it until it is completely used up. This is also a nice variant for outside by the fire or on the fire bowl.

Merry Christmas and a nice Advent season

I am happy if my contribution about the rough nights has something interesting for you and I was able to make you want to smoke in Advent and in the dark nights. I wish you a lot of fun trying it out and a relaxed and contemplative Christmas time!

If you want to know more about the world of herbs, visit me on Instagarm at or on my website And if you are still looking for a suitable gift for herb lovers, I have summarized my herbal knowledge this year in a book "Ganz schön wild" where you can read a lot about wild herbs for medicine cabinets, natural cosmetics and enjoyment.

Sincerely yours, Silja Parke

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