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Do You Know the Lore Behind Nutcrackers?

The other day I was finishing up some holiday shopping when I spotted these gigantic dog nutcrackers in TJ Maxx/Homegoods. And when I say gigantic I’m not kidding. Yes, I’m only 5’1″ so most everything and everyone towers over me, but these were even taller than my 6’2″ husband!

Anyway, the shutterbug in me couldn’t help but snap a shot. I mean, I don’t know about you, but it’s not every day I see giant dog nutcrackers standing sentinel in a store aisle.

Or, I guess I should say it’s not every holiday season I see such a thing. In fact, I’ve never seen anything like these before.

Legend of the Nutcracker

I of course wanted to post them on Instagram. But I also wanted an interesting caption to go along with it. (Besides something obvious like, “Check these canines out! My, what a big nutcracker you are, Fido…”)

So I Googled something. I actually don’t remember what but it was something more than just “nutcrackers.” Maybe “the significance of nutcrackers” or “the meaning of” them?

I don’t know. Whatever it was it led me to the On their The History of Nutcrackers page, this description immediately caught my interest:

According to German folklore, nutcrackers were given as keepsakes to bring good luck to your family and protect your home. The legend says that a nutcracker represents power and strength and serves like a trusty watch dog guarding your family from evil spirits and danger. A fierce protector, the nutcracker bares its teeth to the evil spirits and serves as the traditional messenger of good luck and goodwill.

I added the bold for emphasis because if that wasn’t the perfect info to include with the above photo, I don’t know what was.

Famous Artisans

The History of the Nutcracker page also shared the history of the Steinbach Nutcrackers in particular (which are apparently very desirable collectibles).

The German Girl in America had a great post explaining the significance of Steinbach nutcrackers in her History of German Nutcrackers:

The Steinbach family was instrumental in spreading the popularity of Nutcrackers. In the beginning, most looked fairly similar… soldier, knight, king. Herr Steinbach decided to create Nutcrackers based on German Folklore or famous leaders from around the world. Then came the brilliant idea of “limited edition” Nutcrackers…. the first was King Ludwig II, and only 3000 were made. This marketing plan of scarcity made collectors mad for acquiring these special pieces.

Coming to America

I take it for granted that nutcrackers have always been a staple American Christmas symbol, because they’ve always been a part of my holiday memories. But no.

Both and German Girl in America explained it wasn’t until the 1950s that we started collecting them here in the states. Thanks goes to World War II when American soldiers visited European Christmas markets, saw them, and brought them back as gifts.


Did you know any of this about nutcrackers? Do you have any that you display during the holiday season?


Courtney Mroch
Courtney Mroch, otherwise known as HJ's Ambassador of Dark and Paranormal Tourism, is an author, traveler, and ghost enthusiast. When she's not writing, jaunting, or planning her next trip, it's a safe bet you'll find her in one of three places: on a tennis court somewhere, on a yoga mat somewhere, or watching a horror movie somewhere. She currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee.

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