Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Wonder Friend. Wonder Friend Wonders, “Who made up the Nutcracker and why?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Wonder Friend!

When December rolls around each year, many people look forward to celebrating the winter holidays in a wide variety of ways. For many people, there are certain holiday traditions that they maintain year in and year out.

For example, many people look forward to attending a famous ballet that tells the fairy tale story of a young girl and her favorite Christmas toy, which comes to life, defeats the Mouse King, and takes her away to a magical land where she meets the Sugar Plum Fairy. What are we talking about? The Nutcracker, of course!

Today, The Nutcracker is considered the most popular ballet to be performed during the winter holidays. In fact, some consider it the most popular ballet in the world. Despite its popularity, not many people know its interesting history.

The Nutcracker did not start out as a ballet. Instead, it was originally a story written in 1816 by Prussian author E.T.A. Hoffmann. His original story, called The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, was a bit darker and scarier than the story told in the modern ballet.

The Nutcracker ballet was actually based upon an adaptation of Hoffmann's original story written by French author Alexandre Dumas. Dumas' adaptation was lighter and less scary than Hoffmann's original version.

In 1891, Ivan Vsevolozhsky, director of Moscow's Imperial Theaters, commissioned a ballet to be produced based upon Dumas' adaptation of Hoffmann's story. The ballet premiered a week before Christmas in 1892.

The ballet's dances were choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov. Even more than the dances, The Nutcracker is famous for its music composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

Although the ballet did not enjoy great success initially, Tchaikovsky's music for the ballet has become one of his most famous works. The Nutcracker Suite, a selection of eight of the more popular pieces from the ballet, is an instantly-recognizable holiday classic enjoyed by millions every year.

The Nutcracker was not popular outside of Russia for many years. For example, its first United States performance did not come until 1944 in San Francisco. Its popularity didn't soar until after its New York City performance became a hit in the 1950s.

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