History of “The Nutcracker”
No one knows where the first nutcracker was born, or even what he looked like. Various accounts place his date of birth in the 17th or 18th century. His was not a celebrated birth, so perhaps he’s been around much longer.
One can imagine him being carved during the long winter nights before Christmas. No doubt he was ready in time for the Christmas feasts, where nuts are as traditional as apples and gingerbread. Many early Nutcrackers are fashioned as kings, generals, and policemen. The carvers were delighted to find a practical use for such stern authority figures.
The legend is that Nutcrackers have magical powers for doing good. They come alive when needed to perform miracles for those who believe in them. Tchaikovsky was inspired by one such tale to create “The Nutcracker Suite”, which made Nutcrackers famous the world over.
Today, a Nutcracker’s mere presence is enough to bring good luck to those who believe in him. You must realize that their large teeth and stern countenance are necessary to ward off evil spirits. At heart, Nutcrackers are only interested in your welfare and happiness. At Holiday times especially, the Nutcracker’s calm, upstanding presence assures one and all that nothing bad will happen; and that it will be a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
History of “The Rauchermen” (Smoking Men)
For thousands of years incense, gold, spices, and gems have been the most precious gifts of Kings and Emperors. Incense has also been closely connected to religion and spirituality. The bible tells us the story of the Three Wisemen bearing treasured gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The festival of the Three Wisemen is still celebrated in Germany on January 6th.
Christian and Germanic customs, together with superstition, made people believe that the evil spirits of the “Rauchernachte” (longest night of the year) could be driven away by noise and light. Once the evil spirits had left the house, fine incense was burned to bless the hearth and home. This is why these creative “Rauchermen” were first carved on the cold winter nights before Christmas.