Giant Nutcrackers Around the World

Giant nutcrackers

Nutcrackers and Christmas go together like hot cider and frosty snowfall. How festive to see one standing atop a mantle in his red and green soldier’s uniform or at attention beneath the Christmas tree. You may even spy some giant nutcrackers on a porch or in a yard, ready to usher in the Yuletide season.

Nutcrackers are beloved members of the Christmas decorating family, though it wasn’t until the creation of Tchaikovsky’s famed Christmas ballet, The Nutcracker, in 1892 that they became a holiday staple.

Originating in medieval times, the first nutcrackers were functional tools for—you guessed it!—cracking nuts. Some were plain, while others were crafted out of wood by skilled whittlers who made them look like animals, elf heads, or other figures from nature and folklore.

In the 17th century, a German craftsman created nutcracker dolls for children. Since these small novelty dolls were seen as symbols of protection and power, could giant nutcrackers offer even more protection (as the hero of the ballet did)? Realistically speaking, maybe not. But they most definitely could offer extra special holiday cheer!

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Nutty Fun with Life-size Nutcrackers

Life-size nutcracker figure

It’s the Christmas season! Look around—everywhere you’ll see snowmen and reindeer, Santa and sparkling trees, flickering candles and charmingly stoic toy soldiers decked out in red, green, and gold—not to mention a flurry of festive décor, from miniature scented elf candles to life-size nutcrackers indoors and out!

In past blogs we explored the surprising origin of giant nutcracker Christmas decorations and the evolution of the beloved nutcracker figure over the decades. To recap, back in the Middle Ages the humble nutcracker began life as a plain, purely functional nut-cracking implement for the kitchen. Soon, clever German craftsmen began fashioning them into dolls—still functional but more fun and festive.

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The Historical Sources of Outdoor Toy Soldiers at Christmastime

Les Ballets de Noël

Though it may seem somewhat peculiar at first glance—if not downright counterintuitive—the association of outdoor toy soldiers with Christmas is now well established in western cultures. Proof of that fact can be found in the sudden appearance of giant toy soldier decorations on front lawns and in shopping malls nationwide when the Christmas season rolls around.

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The Surprising Origin of Giant Nutcracker Christmas Decorations

Two Giant Nutcrackers guarding building entrance

When it’s time to seek out new decorations for the Christmas holiday, we might visit stores or browse online in search of those regal, festive figures, the nutcrackers. Often dressed in red, green, and gold, they stand ready to perform their duty, be it crack a bowl full of roasted chestnuts as part of a party snack or grace a holly-covered mantle near the sparkling Christmas tree. And not only are nutcrackers crafted in “snack” size, these days there are stately giant nutcrackers found in holiday displays all over, from North to South, East to West, heralding the season on snow-covered stretches or warm, sunny lawns.
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