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How Did Nutcrackers Become a Christmas Tradition?


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

Although tools for cracking large nuts have existed since the 14th century or earlier, the first soldier styled nutcracker came about in the 1600s, in Germany. It became a popular piece of art and 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. 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 nutcracker popularity exploded.

Since then, nutcrackers have continued to be a holiday staple, and have taken on countless shapes and sizes. We have a large selection of nutcrackers available at Christmas Central, so browse our collection to find the right one for your home!