I was around 8 years old the first time I saw the Nutcracker ballet on stage. It was beautiful (and maybe a little more boring in my 8 year old mind – No WORDS!) but the dressing up and the theatre more than made up for whatever boredom I might have experienced. The one thing though that remained seared into my mind was the beautiful nutcracker dolls for sale in the lobby. I don’t remember why exactly, but I was struck by them.
Fast forward some 15 years later to the first Christmas my husband and I celebrated together as a marriage couple, we began thinking about what traditions we wanted to establish. We agreed to only decorate after Thanksgiving, we always make Christmas candy in December (and by we, I really mean me, although he will help and definitely enjoys eating it all), but it was in that first year I decided that every year I wanted to get a nutcracker. I love the idea of getting something each year to remind us of our commitment to one another and to celebrate another year together. Thankfully, my husband was happy to oblige and so began one of my favorite Christmas season traditions.
Now, 3 kids later, it’s still the thing we all look forward to each year. As soon as the Christmas decorations begin appearing in the stores, my boys begin lobbying for what kind of nutcracker we will get. It might be tall. Or maybe short. Will it have glitter or a sword? Do we want a boy or girl? The list goes on and on. And then, after we’ve stuff ourselves with turkey, we will head out on Black Friday to find our nutcracker.
Once we’ve procured him (or her), the boys anxiously await when we begin unwrapping each one of our previous years statues. They love reexamining each on. Hearing which year it was from and reminiscing over why we picked each one. Checking out the one from the year they were born. Playing with their costumes and mouths. And then, helping me figure out how we will reconfigure our mantle set-up to accommodate our newest acquisition.
To say it’s one of my favorite moments of the holiday would be an understatement. I had hoped years before it would be something my future kids enjoyed, although I was fine too if it became one of those “quirky mom things” that only I did. After all, it really started because I wanted a nutcracker. But it has become something so much more precious that I could have even imagined.
As I sit and write thing, staring at my beloved nutcrackers, I can’t help but smile. They bring me so much joy. So on this December eve, tell me, what are your favorite holiday traditions? How’d they get started?