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About Nutcracker

Nutcrackers have become nearly as synonymous with Christmas as pine trees and Santa Claus. The beloved wooden figure of the ballet, with his oversize jaw, bared teeth and bright military uniform, has been dear to all children's hearts.

People believe that the birthplace of the nutcracker is the Erzgebirge in German. For centuries, Erzgebirge was the source of the Saxon king's great wealth. Generations of miners toiled in the silver and tin mines by day and crafted wooden figures by night. Wives, grandparents and children would work on assembling and painting them. Many traditional nutcrackers are inspired by this mining culture, which had festive parade uniforms and coats of arms for various miner fraternities.

There is a legend that is even told today. Long time ago there was a very wealthy farmer, who was very miserly and lonely. His heart was as hard as the walnuts. The farmer had so many properties but had no time to crack the nuts to get the tasty meat inside. Therefore, he offered a reward to someone who could find an easy way to crack the nuts. Many unusual ideas were proposed but none been accepted by him. Until one day there was an old puppet carver from the village of Seiffen came with a beautiful puppet painted in bright colors, with a large mouth and strong jaws. The jaws were strong and big enough to crack the hard walnuts. The miserly farmer was delighted by that and decided to reward the whole village. Since then, every year at Christmas time, he gave all of the village people fruitcake, chocolate with nuts. He even had some walnuts painted gold to be the decorations on the Christmas tree. He gave the puppet carver a special workshop so the maker was free to make the most beautiful nutcrackers in the world. So not only the beautiful nutcracker crack walnuts, but the hard heart of the farmer was open to the kindness and generosity.

In the real history, the traditional nutcracker portrays authority figures more, such as a king, soldier or policeman. The nutcracker not only is functional but also contains an element of social satire - The poor, overworked miners make a king cracking open nuts with his teeth!

The nutcracker uniforms show different roles in village life. For example, nutcrackers wearing a crossed hammer and chisel on their helmets are mining foremen. Those figures in green hunting garb are Foresters, who enforced the poaching laws on large estates, inspiring the enmity of the poorer village folk. Nutcrackers with the spiked helmet of the Prussian army show the Saxon's traditional dislike of these northern rivals form Berlin.

The traditional nutcracker we are familiar with is wearing red or blue military jacket, shiny black boots, black and gold crown. This was created by a craftsman named Wilhelm Friedrich Fuechtner around 1872. Who was known as the "father of the nutcracker"? It became a classic style and represented the nutcracker tradition since then.

Today the range of nutcracker characters available has expanded to meet the demands of collectors. Mouse King and Drosselmeier nutcracker, taken from Tchaikovsky's ballet, are two popular modern variations.

In spring of 1892, Tchaikovsky premiered The Nutcracker Ballet Suite in Russia. The great success of the Suite is lasting even till today. The ballet story is based on E.T.A. Hoffmann's "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" in 1816. Hoffmann's nutcracker has a white beard and light green eyes that "spoke of nothing but friendship and goodwill" is well known for today's audiences. That's also one of the reasons why it could become the symbol of Christmas spirit.

The most common way for collection is to have the King at first. King is the ruler of the collection. The number two is the soldier or guard with a weapon, to protect the king. The third nutcracker usually is the good luck piece, such as Chimney Sweep, sweeping the bad luck or the drummer or musician is to drum out the good news. Then due the King needs to eat and live, so bakers, servants and workers finish out the basic collection.

However, there are people collect nutcrackers by themes, such as the Nutcracker Ballet Suite theme or some famous stories.

In fact, there is no rule of collection. For each piece of nutcracker is such a piece of art that request great skilled craftsmanship and designer's creativity.

How to Make a Nutcracker.   |
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