Christmas is a time of joy, love and peace. It is celebrated as the anniversary of the birth of baby Jesus. When we think of Christmas, we think of carols, mistletoe, eggnog, Christmas trees and a warm fireplace. Christmas has always been associated with giving gifts and the jolly plump man, called Santa Claus, is almost synonymous to this festival. When December arrives, the one thing we think about is Christmas. We look forward to the joyous day and wish our family well. When one talks about the nutcracker, we are reminded of a ballet written by E.T.A. Hoffman, which was choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, with its score written by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. This is a charming story about a little girl called Clara and the nutcracker that she was given for Christmas by her uncle. The nutcracker doll itself is a legend of its own which dates back to the 1700s. Read on to find out about the legend of the nutcracker.
The Famed Christmas Toy
The nutcracker's origin comes from the Erzgebirge region of Germany. These dolls were first made in the 1700s, due to the ample supply of wood and depleting supply of metal. Carving these intricate wooden nutcrackers became the livelihood of the people of the Erzgebirge region. Today, the German nutcracker is a valued possession and collectible over all others. It takes 130 steps to create this magnificent piece of art. One wonders as to why the dolls don't have a smile on their faces. The answer is that the people inculcated their everyday hardships into the dolls that they created. Their lives were hard, the working conditions bad and they did not get paid well. The book 'The Legend of the Nutcracker and Traditions of the Erzgebige', written by Ken Althoff, speaks of an old German folktale about how the nutcracker came into being. The story stated that there was a farmer who offered a reward to anyone who could help him crack the walnuts that grew on his tree. A carpenter told him to saw the nut in half while a soldier told him to shoot the nut. It was finally a puppet maker who came along with a beautiful puppet, made of wood and painted in bright colors, which had strong jaws that could be used to crack the walnuts. The farmer rewarded him by giving him his own workshop. Though this is just a folktale, it can safely be said that the dolls are being made for the past 250 years or so. In Germany, it is also said that nutcrackers bring good luck and protect the house. They are said to keep evil at bay and protect the people of the house.
The Steinbach Family
For over 200 years, the Steinbach family has been making these nutcrackers. Today, Herr Christian Steinbach and his daughter Karla are carrying on this tradition of making these beautiful pieces of art. The Steinbach family, originally hailing from Austria, settled near Erzgebirge, a region particularly rich in gold, silver, uranium, tin and wood and famous for mining. When resources started to deplete, people were forced to go back to working with wood and became extremely good in this kind of wooden artwork. There was even a law passed that wood carving was to be done only by craftsmen who knew the art, and their families. Herr Steinbach changed the look of the nutcrackers. These were originally made to look like soldiers or generals, but Herr Steinbach introduced nutcrackers that looked like characters from different parts of the world. Herr Steinbach's uniqueness added a whole new level of quality to the nutcrackers and got them selling. Today, the family operation is headed by Herr Steinbach, with his daughter Karla being second in command.
The Nutcracker was a famous ballet written by E.T.A Hoffman. This ballet was first performed in 1892. The original story however, was not suitable for children as it was dreary and depressing. Therefore, it was rewritten with a little cheer and happiness by Alexander Dumas Pere. The story is of a little girl named Clara who is given a lovely nutcracker by her uncle Drosselmeyer. Her brother Fritz breaks the toy much to Clara's grief. In the middle of the night, Clara comes down to check on her nutcracker. All of a sudden, mice begin to fill the room and the nutcracker grows into a life size person. The King of Mice and the Nutcracker, along with other toy soldiers, start fighting each other. The wounded nutcracker fights the King of Mice and Clara helps by throwing her slipper at the King of Mice, giving the nutcracker enough time to kill the King. After the mice retreat, the nutcracker turns into a prince and walks into a pine forest with Clara in tow and snowflakes dancing around them. Both of them then travel to the Land of Sweets where the Sugar Plum Fairy had been ruling until the return of the prince. In honor of Clara for saving the prince, different sweets and delicacies dance for her and the Prince and Clara are crowned rulers of the Land of Sweets.
Perhaps now that you know a little more about the nutcracker, you might consider getting one to keep the evil spirits at bay. The legend of the nutcracker revolves around beautiful wood work, artwork and care. It is a wonderful collectible and has a tale of courage and faith woven in it.