The question of whether or not an encounter with a chimney sweep brings good luck might seem like a whimsical, if not a little silly, tradition from a bygone era. To this day, however, cultures around the world attribute good luck and good fortune to the humble chimney sweep. The reasons why might surprise you, and who knows… once you’ve experienced the professional and superior work of our sweeps at Madewell Masonry & Chimney you might be left believing it, as well.
Where Did the Legends Begin?
Accounts and depictions of chimney sweeps have been spotted in archeology dating back to the Roman Empire. Fireplaces in the home were vital in keeping families warm, and the person that kept them clean were valuable to families. Even back then, fireplace safety was important to avoiding uncontrolled and devastating fires indoors.
That said, while the Roman keepers of the hearth were a beloved asset to citizens of the empire, the belief that chimney sweeps could bring good luck springs up during the 16th-century in Europe. As populations increased and people began living in closer quarters, fireplaces became a staple of each individual residence. Unkempt fireplaces were known to be dangerous so keeping them clean and safe became a vital aspect of European culture.
In the end, chimney sweeps were seen as people who brought with them safety for the home. It was this sense of comfort and safety that led people to apply the belief that receiving a visit from the local chimney sweep brought with it confidence and comfort as you heated your home.
Of course, this belief became the instigator of many traditions, superstitions, and events, many of which continue to this day.
Chimney Sweep Traditions & Symbols
So, what are the legends, traditions, and symbols of sweeps and their luck in today’s world? Here are a handful of the most popular ones.
Wedding Day Luck
Attend a wedding in Great Britain or Germany and you might find yourself chatting with a chimney sweep during the vows. It’s not uncommon for people in these countries to invite a chimney sweep to the wedding.
In fact, the groom will sometimes make a show of paying the chimney sweep to kiss his bride. The tradition says that a kiss from a chimney sweep to a bride on her wedding day will lead to a lifetime of good luck and fortune for the family. Of course, this tradition leaves us wondering if the chimney sweep is the bringer of good luck or the receiver of it.
Tales of Rescue & Fortune
The history books throughout Europe contain many stories and anecdotes about chimney sweeps performing daring rescues and heroic deeds. While the characters seem to change from location to location, the theme of chimney sweeps bringing good luck, safety, and blessings to people are found throughout.
One of the more famous tales involves King William IV of the United Kingdom. The story goes that when the king’s carriage horses suddenly bolted, a chimney sweep bravely stepped in and managed to calm the horses. What would have ended in tragedy actually ended in triumph as the king declared chimney sweeps bearers of good fortune. According to the king, they should be regarded from that time forth as lucky to all who encounter them.
Lucky Chimney Sweep Figurines
Visit a family in Austria or Germany and you may spot figurines of chimney sweeps on the hearth or shelves throughout the home. These small, metal or porcelain figurines are believed to bring good luck and prosperity to the household, acting as a sort of talisman against misfortune and symbolizing the “sweeping away” of bad luck.
Superstitions & Rituals
The traditions of wedding invitations and talisman figurines are really the tip of the iceberg of lucky chimney lore. Many superstitions and rituals are connected to chimney sweeps and good luck.
In some Central European countries, you may spot a chimney sweep visiting people on New Year’s Day. Why? Because it was on New Years that the chimney sweep would take to the streets and collect payment for his services. His positive demeanor and willingness to do a hard and dirty job encouraged people to look for him on the first of the year. Rubbing the chimney sweep’s uniform buttons or shaking his hand is considered a sign that you will receive health and good fortune all year long.
Literature & Art
Of course, many people’s understanding of chimney sweeps have been shaped and formed by the ones they read about or see in movies. In “Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens, it is a chimney sweep business owner that plays a crucial role in driving Oliver’s journey toward his unlikely future of fortune.
And who could forget Bert, the chimney sweep from Mary Poppins, as he brought fun and mischief to Jane and Michael Banks. His smile, dancing, and very contagious laughter continues to perpetuate the idea that chimney sweeps are cheerful, kind, and, yes, lucky. In fact, depictions of luck aren’t confined to stories and movies either. Paintings, illustrations, and art throughout Europe depict chimney sweeps as cheerful figures who symbolize good luck and protection.
Need a Little Luck? We’re Here for You
So does the chimney sweep actually bring with them good luck? Well, while there is no actual scientific data to back that claim up, would it hurt to find out for yourself?
At Madewell Masonry & Chimney our chimney sweeps are highly trained, highly knowledgeable, and highly experienced professionals. We think that your encounter with them will show you that stories of kind, cheerful, and hardworking chimney sweeps might not be as far fetched as they might seem. Call today to book your next appointment and find out more how we can keep you safe, warm, and maybe even a little lucky.