Christmas Trivia - Nutcrackers
Why are nutcrackers associated with Christmas?
The distinctive soldier-doll nutcrackers that are so closely associated with Christmas were first made by german woodcarvers in the 1600's. The design proved popular enough in Eastern Europe that by the 1870's they were being made in factories.
In 1892, Peter Tchaikovsky turned an 1816 E.T.A. Hoffman story, "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" into the ballet, "The Nutcracker Suite," which featured the german soldier-doll version, set among a family's Christmas preparations. The ballet was modestly successful, and the nutcrackers we associate with Christmas increased in popularity, but only in Europe.
The music eventually became popular in the US, and was featured in Walt Disney's Fantasia in 1940. But the stage production did not catch on in the US until the 1950's, at which time the ballet became a very popular presentation at Christmas time, and has remained so to this day.
At the same time, American soldiers stationed in Germany after World War II discovered the German nutcrackers and many were sent home to the US as Christmas gifts.
The ballet's Christmas theme associated with the traditional German nutcracker, along with the sudden abundance of actual German nutcrackers made the nutcracker a late-to-the-game but prominent symbol of Christmas.