The Russian Ballet that Became an American Christmas Tradition

The Nutcracker

Many Americans do not consider the holiday season to be over until they have attended a performance of this ballet. The Christmas Eve story of a young girl named Clara was given its world premiere on December 18, 1892 in Saint Petersburg, Old Russia. The ballet music was created by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and the first dancing patterns were invented by Marius Petipa. It was performed outside of Russia for the first time in 1934 in England, and it was not until 1944 that it was presented in the United States by the San Francisco Ballet. As performances took place all throughout the United States in the 1960s, it evolved into one of those things that everyone had to go see.

The Nutcracker Plot

The protean story was written by E.T.A. Hoffmann in 1816. Alexandre Dumas, best known for writing The Three Musketeers, adapted The Nutcracker and the Rodent King in 1844, and a ballet based on this version was commissioned by the director of the Russian Imperial Theatre in 1892. This was in response to the enormous success that Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty had achieved two years earlier. On the evening of Christmas Eve, a small girl named Clara sneaks downstairs to play with her favorite gift, which is a nutcracker.

A strange sorcerer by the name of Drosselmeyer is standing by to take her away on an enchanted journey. Following their victory over the nefarious Rodent King, the Nutcracker with Clara travel on a silver sleigh through the Land of Frost and into the Realm of Candy. There, the Sugary Prune Fairy puts on a spectacular show of dances, including one of her own, before welcoming Clara and the nutcracker to her kingdom. Clara is certain that all she experienced must have been a dream when she wakes up at home, but why does she not recognize Drosselmeyer’s nephew?