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Nutcracker Stockings

Martha Stewart Kids, Special Issue 2001

Come December, kids all over the country can be found leaping around their living rooms, precariously pointing their toes or pretending to fight off armies of angry mice.

For more than a century, family outings to see "The Nutcracker" have prompted kids' dreams of becoming graceful ballet dancers or brave heroes leading troops of toys. If your children get swept up in the ballet, encourage their interest by filling their stockings with Nutcracker themed toys.

What to include? Take inspiration from the plot. Think back to your own childhood, and you may remember how it goes: A little girl has a peculiar godfather who gives her a nutcracker soldier; she falls asleep and a thrilling fight ensues between the Nutcracker Prince and some ill-tempered rodents, then she's escorted through a dancing fairyland of sweets. She watches a Spanish Hot Chocolate dance and a Chinese Tea dance, applauds marzipan shepherdesses, and sees a bevy of children emerge from beneath the skirts of Mother Ginger.

The original version of the story, written by E.T.A. Hoffmann in the early 1800s, was a far darker tale, filled with loneliness, menace, and sorrow. The ballet, first performed 75 years later, was based on a newer and happier--if more illogical--version. Tchaikovsky's music added a fanciful dreaminess.

The slightly strange disconnect between the plot and the dance sequences is perhaps part of the reason why "The Nutcracker" is so popular: Children have to use their imaginations to fill in the gaps. When they receive these stockings brimming with gifts relating to the ballet, kids will have a chance to create their own stories of Sugar Plum Fairies and Dancing Tea Cups.

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