Chimney sweeps have been around for centuries, and, during that time, they’ve acquired some fascinating and unique lore, as befits the interesting service they’ve provided.
According to legend, in 1066 a chimney sweep saved the life of King William of Britain. The sweep “swept” the king to safety from a runaway carriage. The grateful king invited his rescuer to the upcoming wedding of his daughter and officially declared all chimney sweeps to be lucky. To this day, it’s considered good luck to invite a sweep to your wedding or other special occasion. Even just seeing a sweep on your wedding day is lucky – especially if he shakes your hand or kisses you!
In fact, many British chimney sweeps make a nice secondary income by dressing in their traditional top hat and tails and appearing at weddings. The tradition of sweeps wearing such formal attire seems to date to the middle of the 19th century when they began receiving the cast-off clothes of town dignitaries; in particular, those from the local funeral director. Such distinctive attire certainly lends an air of dignity to a dirty, but very important, profession. The black color was also very practical considering the amount of soot a sweep came in contact with daily!
The traditional uniform of a German chimney sweep is a black suit and top hat with gold buttons on the jacket. A similar outfit is also traditional amongst sweeps in Poland, Slovenia, and Croatia. A chimney sweep’s jacket often has 13 buttons for luck. In many European countries, it’s considered lucky to rub a button when seeing a sweep, although it seems to vary by country as to whether it should be the sweep’s button or your own.
For some reason, chimney sweeps with pigs became a lucky charm in certain areas of the world. On New Year’s Day, the sweep would carry his pig through the streets of the town and anyone who wanted to could pay for a wish; the wish was made while plucking a hair from the pig. It’s highly unlikely that the unfortunate pig considered it a lucky day – he probably wished to be far away from the sweep or his chimney! German pigs should be grateful that marzipan chimney sweeps are a popular, and sweet, gift for best wishes for the New Year in Germany.
We hope you enjoyed learning a little about the history and lore of chimney sweeps. Contact us here at Fiddler on the Roof Chimney Service when it’s time for your next chimney cleaning or repair — we can’t promise you good luck but we will guarantee you great, professional service!