CONTRIBUTED BY SARAH FORTE
12 Days of German Christmas:
For some families all over the world, attending or performing in the Nutcracker Ballet is a holiday tradition. Do you know the German ties to this ballet? Tchaikovsky, the composer of The Nutcracker Suite, is Russian and the ballet was first performed in St. Petersburg in 1892. But the idea of a wooden soldier with a moveable jaw that can crack open nuts originated in Germany.
The nutcracker was traditionally a gift of good luck and protection for the German home. I imagine this is why so many of them are dressed like soldiers. In 1816 a German author, E. T. A. Hoffmann wrote a story of Maria who receives a nutcracker for Christmas. During the night, Maria sneaks downstairs to see her nutcracker in a battle with a mouse king and his army of mice. This story, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, is the tale on which Tchaikovsky based his ballet.
There is a German ledged of a farmer who offered a reward for the inventor who could devise the best way to crack a nut. The carpenter suggested a saw, the soldier thought shooting was the best choice, but the puppet maker won with his large-mouthed doll with a lever for the efficient breaking of the tough shells.
American G.I.s stationed in West Germany after WWII are credited with bringing the tradition and popularity of the German nutcracker to the United States.