Nutcracker dolls, also known as Christmas nutcrackers, are decorative nutrcracker figurines most commonly made, in wood, to resemble a toy soldier, although now made to represent many other figures..By the early 19th century they were produced dressed as miners, policemen, royalty, soldiers or as the one pictured here – a Father Christmas.
These nutcracker dolls portray a person with a large mouth which the operator opens by lifting 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.
While nearly all nutcrackers from before the first half of the 20th century are functional, a significant proportion of modern nutcrackers are made as dolls and are primarily decorative, and not able to crack nuts.
According to German tradition, the Nutcracker Dolls are symbols of good luck, frightening away malevolent spirits serving as protector of the house.
Decorative nutcracker dolls began being popularized outside of Europe after the second world war, when numerous American soldiers stationed in Germany went home to the United States with German nutcrackers as souvenirs.
The usual handcrafted nutcracker doll is made of about 60 separate pieces. Nutcracker dolls traditionally resemble toy soldiers, and are often painted in bright colours.