Friday, September 23, 2011

Oktoberfest and Nutcrackers

Hello everyone!  I'm Simone's daughter and I am doing a guest post as she is traveling again.  

As you may or may not know, the official Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany kicked off last week and lasts until October 3.  Now, you may be thinking, shouldn't the Oktoberfest occur in October and not September? Well, yes. The official first Oktoberfest began in October 1810 to celebrate the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig I to his new princess.  The Germans enjoyed celebrating the marriage so much they're still celebrating.  However, to take advantage of the nicer September weather, it was moved up to start in September and end in October.  The wedding celebration also coincided with an older celebration of drinking the previous years' beer before it went bad.  Hence, all the beer drinking.

Since I'm not in Germany, to me the Oktoberfest is a wonderful excuse to display my nutcrackers. (Ok, who am I kidding, they're up all year round...)

Personal photo- this is actually a smoker, not a nutcracker, but it said Oktoberfest on it.


The traditional wooden nutcracker dressed as soldiers and kings that are everywhere during the holidays did not start appearing until between 1800-1830 in Southern Germany in the Erzgebirge region.  
Personal Photo- a Steinbach nutcracker dressed in traditional Bavarian clothing

Antique wooden nutcrackers from that era are difficult to find as people actually used them to crack nuts instead of to display on shelves. As a result, they would eventually break from use and get thrown into the fire.  All of my nutcrackers are new.  If I ever found an antique wooden one I would buy it right up, broken or not! 

Personal Photo- another Steinbach nutcracker dressed as a wine maker

Nutcrackers used as Christmas decorations didn't begin until the Victorian era when children would receive miniature versions in their stockings.  Then of course, Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker" ballet played during Christmas only enhanced their image as a Christmas symbol.

Personal Photo
I leave these nutcrackers up all year long, I just don't display them front and center.  Before Tchaikovsky and the Victorians, nutcrackers were left up all year long, so I am merely following an older tradition!   During the holidays I move them to a more central location and then add my Santa nutcrackers in as well. I'll have to post the Santa nutcrackers later as they are very cute!

Today there are two main German nutcracker makers... Christian Steinbach and Christian Ulbricht.  All of the German nutcrackers are handmade.  During the holidays you can buy nutcrackers at many stores, but they are made in China and are not high quality.  Plus, they just aren't as cute.

There is a nutcracker museum located in Leavenworth, Washington.  Leavenworth is this picturesque little village in Northern Washington located in the Cascade Mountains.  It is called the "Little Germany" because it looks like a little German village nestled in the Alps.
File:Leavenworth Washington.jpg
Photo from Wikipedia.  Click on photo for link to official Leavenworth website.
It is a cute little town to visit if you ever find yourself up in the Northwest corner of the U.S.

Hopefully that encourages you to display your nutcrackers at other times other than Christmas. The holiday nutcrackers will be posted in the holidays. I hope you enjoyed the little history lesson too!!
Thanks to my mother for letting me guest post!

1 comment:

  1. Very informative, my inlaws collect the Steinbach nutcrckers and now i will know what other German maker is good too. I like the lady ones, they only have one which is a Steinbach witch which they got for halloween probably.
    I think i may start buying myself some lady ones or better still get my hubby into the habit of getting me one each birthday, christmas etc.
    Surely the lady ones may be worth more one day if people tend to buy the male ones more.
    I would love to see some pics of older ones that have survived,surely some people in the past thought they were too good to use too. Then i will know what to look out for in charity shops, auctions etc.
    We are moving to France soon do you know if they made/make good quality nutcracker figures?
    You sound as if you have quite a collection now, how many do you have?