Ever wondered how funny looking wooden men became a part of Christmas celebrations worldwide?
Nutcrackers have become a staple winter holiday decoration for centuries. The style we have grown to know and love, the common soldier or character-themed design, has gone through a few evolution's over the years.
The first known form of the nutcracker tool can be as far back as around the 14th century! During this era, it was just a basic machine consisting of screws and levers but with no real conformity, there were a lot of variations. These were mostly made out of wood but there were some brass, cast iron, and porcelain versions of the nutcracker. By the 1700s, the shapes became more whimsical, now including animal and human nutcrackers and nutcrackers had spread to Austria, Italy, and Switzerland. There are several legends about how exactly the switch in nutcracker styles came to be.
The more familiar soldier build we know today originated in Germany in 1800s. They were made in toy workshops and given as gifts during many holidays, not just exclusively for Christmas.
In 1830, the term “nussknacker” is featured in the Brothers Grimm dictionary, providing insight into the nutcrackers cultural impact early on. Wilhelm Fuchtner is known as the father of the nutcracker, producing the first commercial nutcracker in 1872. This would make it possible to keep up with customer demands for the soon to come explosion in popularity.
The Nutcracker ballet inspired the design of many nutcrackers with the characters it introduced like Clara and the Mouse King. Although it was first performed in 1892, the ballet was shockingly not popular until the mid-1900s!
Nutcrackers made their way to America during the war, when Americans stationed in Germany sent them back to families in America as gifts, because of their fun and silly looks as well as how in German traditions, nutcrackers symbolized good luck.