Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The History of the Nutcracker

After watching a bit of the ballet "The Nutcracker" on TV, I began to wonder how this became associated with Christmas.

Nutcrackers have been around since the beginning of time. Nuts and fruits have been an important part of man's diet. Not only did we eat them as they were, nuts were made into flour, butter, or as a way to spice up a meal. Nuts were easy to find and a plentiful food item.

If the nuts were too hard to crack by teeth, pitted stones were used. In excavations of early civilizations have found such stones and have been discovered in the United States and Europe dating back 4,000 to 8,000 years during the Archaic Period.

The oldest nutcracker can be found in a museum in Tarent, Italy and dates back to the third or fourth century B.C. The Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum has a bronze Roman Nutcracker dating between 200 B.C and 200 A. D. It was found in 1960 after being buried for over 1800 years.

Over the years, Nutcrackers have evolved. I found that according to German folklore, Nutcrackers would be given to friends and family as keepsakes to bring good luck and to protect the home. Legend says that the Nutcracker represents strength and power. It serves as a look out for your family, guarding them from evil spirits and danger. The Nutcracker bares his teeth to evil spirits and danger, forever being the fierce protector.

Nutcrackers have become a tradition at dining tables and Christmas holiday settings for a long time. Bringing with it, whimsical conversations. Many unusual forms can be found of these novelty pieces. Writers, artists and composers have paid tribute to these festive messengers. The most famous is the novel, "The Nutcraker and the King of Mice" written by E.T. Amadeus Hoffman somewhere between 1776 and 1822. It was then turned into a popular ballet, debuting in St. Petersburg on Dec. 18, 1892. It was choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov and the score was written by none other than Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

So, the next time you are sitting in the living room with the glow of the Chrsitmas tree over your shoulder and someone passes you a tray with nuts and the Nutcracker, I hope you will remember this post and it serves as another unusal conversation piece associated with this holiday tradition.

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