Even though Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy and peace, a certain amount of controversy prevails within families during the holidays. Do you put up the tree after Thanksgiving or wait until closer to Christmas? Should the presents from Santa be wrapped or simply placed by the tree? Do you send out cards with handwritten notes or simply email a Christmas letter? Wrap with paper and ribbon or use gift bags? Naturally one person’s beloved tradition can be the source of consternation to another.
One of the Christmas controversies in my family is nutcrackers. My son and I love them. When I discovered a Santa nutcracker towering three feet tall over a small gathering Christmas bears and angels at a thrift store my son exclaimed, “You should get it.” Then he added with a gleam in his eye, “She’ll hate it.” Despite being a devout fan of scary movies, my daughter finds nutcrackers disturbing. It is said that the nutcracker bares his teeth to ward off evil spirits. To be honest with you, I like a little fierceness in my holiday.
The nutcracker origins date back to the late 17th century Germany. Formerly a rich mining region, the Erzgebirge Mountains became famous for their nutcrackers in the 18th century when the miners turned to woodworking when the mines dried up. The classic German Erzgebirge nutcrackers with their fierce expressions often depicted soldiers or kings. The Erzgebirge craftsman could caricature the rulers without fear of reprisal. Shortly after Napoleon conquered Germany, many Napoleon nutcrackers appeared on the scene. Nutcrackers became more popular outside of Europe after World War II when American soldiers brought nutcrackers home as souvenirs.
More fun facts about nutcrackers:
As if warding off evils spirits wasn’t enough, the stalwart wooden soldier would also serve as inspiration for ETA Hoffman’s 1816 novella, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” which would later inspire Tchaikovsky’s ballet, “The Nutcracker”.
The 1944 staging of “The Nutcracker” had a budget of $1,000. With wartime rationing limiting the purchase of fabric to ten yards per person, multiple company members had to wait in line in order to purchase enough fabric to make costumes. All of the jewelry and flowers for the production were purchased at Goodwill for $5.00.
Whether your holiday style is traditional or modern, I wish you and your loved ones peace and happiness this season.