History of the Nutcracker

History of the Nutcracker

The Nutcracker is a beloved and well known Christmas tradition. The standard appearance is of a carved wooden figure, most commonly a soldier, with a large jaw that opens with a lever on the back. A nut can be placed in the opened mouth and then cracked by forcing it shut. It has been the subject of many a story and fictional work, the most recognizable being the Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky. But where did such a thing come from, and how did it become important to Christmas?

The nutcracker is of German origin. Although tools for cracking large nuts have existed since the 14th century or earlier, the first soldier styled decide came about in the 1600s, in the Erzgebirge region of Germany. As a source of income for woodworkers, it became a popular piece of art. Although at that time they were not yet specifically a Christmas tradition, they began to spread.

The boost that most likely permanently tied the nutcracker to Christmas was the E.T.A. Hoffman story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King”, written in 1816. As the name implies, it was the original source of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, which popularized the Germanic toy. When it became a hit in the United States in the 1950s, the popularity exploded. Since then, there has been a steady assured popularity all over the world, taking on countless shapes and versions.

It would be remiss to not at least briefly mention the famous Steinbach family works that are sold on our site. As a family that lived in the region where the nutcrackers first existed, they have been part of the growth of the industry from the start, and are at the forefront of beautiful, unique, hand carved, assembled and painted nutcrackers from the start until the present day.

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