Christmas Traditions > Nutcrackers

A nutcracker is a device for cracking nuts. It works on the principle of moments derived from Archimedes’ discovery of the lever.

Nutcrackers as wood carvings of a soldier, knight, king, or other profession have been known since at least the 15th century. These nutcrackers are carvings of a person with a big mouth that is opened by pressing a lever in the back of the figurine. Originally one could insert a nut in the big-toothed mouth, press down and thereby crack the nut. Modern nutcrackers in this style are mostly for decoration.

The carving of nutcrackers as well as religious figures and cribs developed as a cottage industry in forested rural areas of Germany. The most famous nutcracker carvings come from Sonneberg, Thuringia, also a center of doll making, and from the Ore Mountains. Wood carving was usually the only income for the people living there. Today their income is supplemented by the travel industry bringing visitors to the remote areas.

Nutcrackers have become popular in the United States as well and a recreated “Bavarian village” of Leavenworth, Washington even features a Nutcracker Museum. Many other materials were used for the decorated nutcrackers, such as porcelain, silver, and brass, and can be seen at the Museum [].

Carvings by famous names like Jungbanel, Mertens, Karl, Kolbe, Petersen, Ulbricht and especially the Steinbach nutcrackers have become collectors’ items.

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.

“Don’t be afraid, my beard is long, my head is large, my look is grim but that matters not. I won’t bite you. In spite of my big mouth and grim appearance, I look with my heart for your happiness.”

Nutcrackers embody the ‘Cycle of Life’ > As the seed of a nut falls to the ground, it grows into a strong tree, living over hundreds of years nourishing the woodcutters and woodcrafters. The legends tell of a feast celebrated just before harvesting the logs of the Elder trees, where nuts and fruits were eaten as if to pass on the magic and mystery of this eternal cycle and so on to the collectors of these exquisite wooden nutcrackers.

Nutcrackers reflect ancestral dining customs where amusing or unusual nutcrackers were part of the social setting adding a whimsical conversation piece as guests lingered over the desert course which included sweetmeats such as pecans and hazelnuts.

Writers, composers and artists sang and danced the praises of the legend of the Nutcracker beginning with the novel “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” written sometime between 1776 and 1822, by E.T. Amadeus Hoffman. This novel became the basis for Tchaikovsky’s magnificent “Nutcracker Suite”, which debuted as a ballet in St. Petersburg in 1892 and lives on as a holiday tradition throughout the world.

The Nutcracker Ballet > The story of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King was written by E.T.A. Hoffmann. Alexandre Dumas’ adaptation of the story was set to music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and has become the most popular ballet performed around Christmas time. It is appealing to children and adults alike and has been a standard yearly feature of theaters in many cities. Because the ballet centers around a young girl’s Christmas gift of a life-size nutcracker, it has become a standard performance during the Christmas holiday season.

Santa Claus the globetrotter

Ever wondered exactly where Santa Claus is on his globetrotting, gift giving mission?

Well, NORAD’s Santa tracker allows you to pinpoint the man himself, wherever on earth he and his sledge team may be.

Santa Claus the Globetrotter

On Christmas Eve, using a combination of radar, satellites, ‘Santa Cams’ and fighter jets, NORAD monitors its systems continuously for indications that Santa Claus has left the North Pole and creates a detailed report of Santa’s flight paths for all to enjoy.

A fun, family way to see how close Santa is to your home come Christmas, you can even track his flight across the globe on Google Earth.

Enjoy monitoring Santa’s movements and have a Merry Christmas!

Related Links >

More Christmas short break ideas in the UK

More Christmas short break ideas in the UK >

* Aston Hall by Candlelight, Birmingham > Beautifully lit by over 300 candles. 3rd-12th December (closed 7th December).

For additional details visit >

* Cheltenham Christmas Market > Discover a wide range of festive crafts and gifts. 20th November-6th December.

For additional details visit >

* Wincanton Racecourse > Blow off the cobwebs at an exciting Boxing Day meet. 26th December.

For additional details visit >

* Taste of Christmas 2009, Excel, London > Taste of Christmas runs from 4-6 December. Tickets from £19.

For additional details visit >

Christmas short break ideas in the UK

Here are some of the events and activities coming up all over the UK this festive Christmas season.

Skating in Cardiff > Enjoy the magical open air ice rink between 12 November 2009 and 3 January 2010. Civic Centre, Cardiff, tel 02920 230 130.

Trafalgar Square, London > As well as the traditional Christmas tree you can see a life-sized polar bear ice sculpture from 11th-20th December. Trafalgar Square, London.

Santa Weekend, Edinburgh > Carols, reindeer and the Great Scottish Santa Run. Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th December. Throughout Edinburgh, tel 0131 529 3914.

Winterfest, Glasgow > There are loads of Christmassy things going on in Glasgow including Glasgow on Ice from 21st November to 3rd January. George’s Square, Glasgow, tel 0141 564 4220.

Bath Christmas Market > Superb shopping in a beautiful setting. From 26th November to 6th December. Shopping district, Bath, tel 01225 396417.

Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre > Markets, fun fair and free entertainment. From 27th to 29th November. Historic town centre, Bury St Edmunds, tel 01284 764667.

Snow business in Manchester > Ski, board, skate and slide in Manchester’s winter wonderland throughout December. Trafford Quays Leisure Village, Manchester, tel 0161 749 2222.

“12 Days of Christmas” Festival, Dublin’s Docklands > This charming yuletide shopping event takes place from 12th to 23rd December. Docklands, Dublin.

How to make your Christmas Wishes come true

“Conversations with Mrs Claus” Christmas themed podcast show visits Bluey Santa’s new recruit, a blue kangaroo originally from Australia.

Bluey exposes the steps in the Law of Attraction which is the key to making your wishes come true. This is one of the very first lessons Bluey learnt when he first arrived at the North Pole. This is a new show now released on ‘Conversations with Mrs Claus’. A podcast show on the channel part of global media network.

On this show Mrs Claus chats with Bluey who is the new hero and head of “Wish Communications” at the North Pole. Bluey exposes the first in a series of lessons he learnt from Head Elf WinterWhite and Santa Claus when first inducted at the School of Elves at the North Pole. As head of “Wish Communications” Bluey has the top tips and tools for listeners to discover how to make their wishes and dreams come true.

Bernadette Dimitrov (aka Mrs Claus) brings the spirit of Christmas to every podcast. She and her guests educate and entertain with traditions, contests, news, and interviews. Mrs Claus reveals this weeks ‘magic secret’ practiced at the North Pole that will show listeners how to transform their life. Christmas is revealed as being not just about one day of the year but about living and projecting the ‘spirit’ of Christmas every day for a truly fulfilled, happy, joyous and great life from the inside out. This week’s secret discovers empowering thoughts on materialism, making love more important than material things.

In the “Ask Mrs Claus a Question” segment, Dan from New Jersey asks Mrs Claus “Does Santa have a pet?” Mrs Claus reveals insights never exposed before and listeners are in for a surprise. Mrs. Claus reveals what really goes on at the North Pole and insights about Santa listeners will love to know. It’s a lot of fun.

Conversations with Mrs Claus podcast show visits fascinating guests and experts from around the world each week who reveal Christmas insights and transformational secrets about how to live a happy, healthy, fulfilled, fun, prosperous and loving life. Plus there are give-aways and prizes to be won each week.

Sponsors for this show are: ‘Bluey Santa’s New Recruit’ new children’s inspirational story series, ‘The HoHoHo Factor’ trivia, insights, symbols, meanings and history of Christmas , Health and wealth with Arbonne International BarkBusters business opportunity

‘Conversations with Mrs. Claus’ podcast show is a family show that provides a weekly stream of inspiration, insight and connection to fascinating guests world-wide. It’s a fun show with something for both young and old. This is a family show that entertains from the heart. For additional information call: Melbourne, Australia +61 3 9778 3036.

Mexican flavour to Christmas celebrations

Mid-Norfolk’s Mexican Christmas continues this weekend with the introduction of more characters to the happy nativity fold.

The Barnham Broom group of Church of England parishes has taken up a fun version of the Mexican tradition of Posada during Advent.

In the original form, young people dressed as Mary and Joseph travelled from house to house asking for a room for the night and telling folk of the imminent arrival of the baby Jesus.

In the local version, church members have been taking figures of Mary and Joseph from place to place in the group, which stretches from Barford, Wramplingham and Kimberley to Westfield, near Dereham, where they have “stayed” with different hosts each evening.

The figures, crafted out of recycled materials by churchgoer Ann Tomalin, began their journey with a ride on the Mid-Norfolk Railway. Their other unusual ports of call have included the clubhouse bar at the Norfolk Golf and Country Club at Reymerston.

Mary and Joseph will arrive at the Crib Service at Barnham Broom church on Christmas Eve (4pm), to be joined by shepherds, an angel and the Christ Child.

But before then, the Three Posada Kings will start their own journeys through the group parishes. The new figures will be introduced at the annual carol service at St Peter’s Church, Reymerston, on Saturday (subs 23rd), starting at 5pm.

Julie Walpole, one of the Posada organisers, said this week: “Word on the grapevine is that Mary and Joseph are having a wonderful journey around the group. They have visited some wonderful people are very grateful for the hospitality shown and given. Joseph remarks that Mary is now getting very tired and will be glad to reach Barnham Broom on Sunday, where she can rest and await the imminent birth.”

All the figures will come together at a special Christingle Service on January 7 (3pm) at Barnham Broom, after which churchgoers will tuck into a special tea to celebrate not just the Posada experience but the feast of Epiphany.

‘Amahl and the Night Visitors’ set in Vicksburg, Madison

Amahl and the Night Visitors will be presented at two area churches this weekend in celebration of Epiphany.

Performances are at 7 p.m. Friday at Church of the Holy Trinity in Vicksburg and 2:30 p.m. Saturday at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Madison.

The performances conducted by Rolland Shaw feature soprano Clarissa Davis of Vicksburg and Jordan Lynch of Madison in the lead roles of the mother and the boy Amahl. Holy Trinity organist/choirmaster Dorothy Brasfield is overall director. Ballet Mississippi will be the featured guest dancers.

Tickets aren’t needed for the performances; contributions will be accepted.

Amahl and the Night Visitors, a short English opera by Gian Carlo Menotti first written for television, is the story of an impoverished mother and her crippled son who encounter the Wise Men on their journey to see the Christ child. Call (601) 636-0542 for more information.

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