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Crack Open the Holidays with Nutcrackers

If you're going to be roasting chestnuts over an open fire with Jack Frost nipping at your nose this holiday season, you're going to need something to open up those hard little buggers. Although today most nutcrackers are considered primarily collectible ornaments, they still imbue hearth and home with the magical warmth of the holiday season.

Tchaikovsky's popular 1882 ballet The Nutcracker made these toys a worldwide symbol of the childhood magic of Christmas, but wood-carved nutcracker figurines date back to at least the fifteenth century as a large cottage industry in forested rural areas of Germany. Even before Tchaikovsky's masterpiece, E. T. A. Hoffmann's 1816 story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King stamped these statues with a now-implicit Yuletide connection, signifying magic, hope, love, and beauty. In this story, a princess eats the kernel from the world's hardest nut, cracked by the jaws of a young man, and transforms into a beautiful woman. After being turned into a nutcracker, this savior returns as a Christmas gift given to a young girl, coming alive to rescue her from the Mouse King and become her prince.

The formal dress of nutcrackers, along with the works by Hoffmann and Tchaikovsky, make these statues an important part of holiday decorating. Traditionally dressed in military or regal garb, the guardian-like properties of these dolls symbolize safety and security for home and family. Not only do they look right at home next to majestic holiday finery, they also remind families to celebrate safely and appreciate the good health and security they have.

It is the old-world craftsmanship of these dolls that originally made them such popular Christmas gifts, along with other wooden toys such as blocks, yo-yos, puzzles, or pretty much anything you could find in Geppetto's workshop. Nowadays, the collectability of nutcrackers has brought with it a wide array of thematic dress, and collectors can find figures to celebrate almost any hobby or career, from golfing to skateboarding, from doctor to farmer.

Whether you fancy the more conventional soldier or figures that crack that mold, Hayneedle.com has an assortment of nutcrackers from some of the most trusted and prestigious names in the business. Makers like Glaesser, Steinbach, and Ulbricht produce dolls that celebrate different endeavors or occasions as well as beautiful craftsmanship. So this holiday season, deck your halls or find the perfect gift for someone on your list with a nutcracker.