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what is a nutcracker?

Updated: Jul 25, 2022

not to be confused with the ballet!

before we moved to france, i had rarely seen one of these. these toys are in the forefront of every christmas display here! i wondered if they were genuine 'nutcrackers', or whether they were just for decoration purposes. here's what i found.

nutcracker dolls also known as christmas nutcrackers, are decorative nutcracker figurines, most commonly made to resemble a toy soldier. in german tradition, the dolls are symbols of good luck, frightening away malevolent spirits. while nearly all nutcrackers from before the first half of the 20th century are functional, the majority of modern nutcrackers are primarily decorative, and not able to crack nuts. these toys are also a part of german folklore, serving as protectors of a house.

these dolls originate from the late 17th century germany, and were often given as gifts, and at some point became associated with the christmas season. created by friedrich wilhelm fuchtner, who, when demand grew, began producing them on a mass scale in factories during 1872.

decorative nutracker dolls began being popular outside of europe after the second world war, when american soldiers stationed in germany returned home to the united states with german nutcrackers as souvenirs.

they became more popular still with tchaikovsky's the nutcracker, a ballet adaptation of hoffmann's story, the nutcracker and the mouse king, which featured a toy solder nutcracker. this ballet became a favourite holiday tradition in america, and helped make the nutcracker dolls a christmas decoration and a seasonal icon across western culture today.



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