Nutcracker makers get ready for Christmas rush

Nutcracker makers get ready for Christmas rush
Northern nutcracker-maker Heinz Krätzel. Photo: DPA
As December draws closer, Germany's nutcracker manufacturers are gearing up for the Christmas season. Near the Baltic coast, one man is keeping to traditional techniques to make figurines with a nautical twist.

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Heinz Krätzel set up shop in the eastern state of Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania 30 years ago, where he has been handcrafting one of Germany's most loved knick-knacks – nutcrackers – ever since. Each one takes 20 hours of toil on his 150-year-old workbench.

Since being developed in the 1870s, nutcrackers have become one of the most recognizable symbols of a German Christmas.

And around this time of year, traditional German nutcrackers appear in shops and markets everywhere, painstakingly painted as kings, soldiers and foresters.

“There's not much demand for anything exotic,” said head of the Erzgebirge craftsman association in eastern Germany Dieter Uhlmann.

But living by the sea, 69-year-old Krätzel feels that his customers feel little affection towards forest-based nutcrackers. In the face of scepticism from his conservative craftsmen peers, he makes around 300 alternative versions each year.

His nutcrackers, all carved and painted by hand in his Dorf Mecklenburg workshop, are pirates and fishermen. They are intricately painted Vikings, curvy sea wenches and ship elves. And this year, he has branched out to land-based firemen.

Like many other small manufacturers, Krätzel starts work long before the festive season. In March he bought a truck-full of fir tree branches and started dreaming up designs. “I read an incredible amount, including fairytales, fables and children's books,” he said.

Christmas markets are set to open next week, and Krätzel will be in Hanseatic town of Wismar. He is there every year and his stall has become one of the most popular. Other markets have, he said, tried to poach him, but he is staying put for as long as he can keep carving.

CLICK HERE for photos of the nutcrackers



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