Nutcrackers of Germany

Buying souvenirs for your friends and family back home when you go overseas is always more confusing than planning the trip itself. At least while planning you know what you would need. But when are on vacation abroad and are on a budget, buying a gift that is unique to a country might not always workout.

Getting Belgian chocolates, Italian coffee or Van gogh’s Starry Night (just a fridge sticker) from Netherlands seem pretty feasible (The painter was born in Netherlands, so it is kind of special). But Germany. Hmm.

I do not what is Germany known for other than beers. The way the country celebrates oktoberfest, there is no doubt as to why beer is famous there. So when I was in Berlin, I ended up buying a fridge sticker with a picture of Brandenburg gate.

But I continued to wonder. What is uniquely Germany? I posed the question to Wolfgang, a representative from Saxony who was a part of the road show conducted by German tourist office in Chennai on Tuesday.

Wolfgang looked at me for few seconds. “Each part of Germany has different specialities. It might not be easy to pinpoint on one,” he replied. So I narrowed my question down to Saxony, where Wolfgang was from. “Hmm, alright,” he said and rummaged a huge tourist guide that was in front of me. “You should buy nutcrackers,” Wolfgang said, pointing fingers to a wooden doll dressed up as soldier.

Nutcracker soldier dolls made in Germany. Source: AliExpress.com
Nutcracker soldier dolls made in Germany. Source: AliExpress.com

German Christmas is never complete without nutcracker dolls that are made in Saxony, Germany.  The dolls symbolise good luck in German folklore and are usually soldiers dressed brightly. The origin of nutcracker dolls could be dated back to late 17th century Germany, particularly from the Ore Mountains region. One origin story attributes the creation of the first nutcracker doll to a craftsman from Seiffen.They were often bought and given as gifts, and at some point they became associated with Christmas season, and particularly in the United States are seen as a Christmas decoration.

The dolls grew in popularity around 19th century, and spread to nearby European countries. As the demand grew, nutcracker doll production also begun on the mass scale in factories. Friedrich Wilhelm Fuchtner, known as “father of the nutcracker”, begun the first mass production of the design (using a lathe) in 1872. The nutcrackers dolls are till date produced by his family in Seiffen.

Nutcrackers are also made famous by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky adaptation of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King play, which featured a character that is the toy soldier nutcracker. There are many other adaptations too like ‘The barbie and the nutcracker’, which I remember seeing it when I was a kid and ballet adaptations.

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