The Christmas Shop, or An Homage on my Nutcracker Obsession

A long time ago, when I was a tiny little girl, I began dancing. I vaguely remember not having a leotard at my first class and wearing a sort of tie-dye shirt and shorts that I think otherwise doubled as sleepwear, but otherwise, I don’t remember not dancing. Each season had its own production, but the crowning glory of every year was the winter production, which was and is and always will be Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. It was a huge part of my early life, even once I was no longer able to dance myself. I recently found out that participation in this cult hobby at a young age had a lifelong impact on my health, as it has affected my bone density, joint formation, and, more recently, I discovered that it might have had something to do with the fact that I developed flat feet at an early age. Regardless, the Nutcracker is still very important to me. The first bar of the Nutcracker Overture makes me turn into a starry eyed kid again. The first bar of the Nutcracker Overture also makes my dad turn into the Grinch, so it’s a toss up over if you want me to be excited and vocal or my dad to turn green and experience heart shrinkage.

All that to say, Montréal has a Christmas store a little over a block away from Tommy’s and less than a block from Notre Dame. The store is called Noël Eternel, and their website holds about 1/8th of their actual inventory (and not the best 1/8th, either, so don’t judge them on it). There were, of course, the usual Canadian stuff targeted at tourists, which included gilded leaves, a thing which my family has collected since, well, since I was still dancing. We have leaves from a couple different places, but up until this point, none from Canada, so that was of course going to be a required purchase (for those of you not quite sure what I’m talking about, take a look at these). This was, however, a small section of the store’s inventory, although probably the most popular.

Belle, in a pretty variation on the theme of her normal cartoon dress, with Lumiere creepin’ in the background

The second most popular thing in the store, it appears, are the village collections. I find these cute, but they are definitely one of those things that I have absolutely no place for–my Liberty Falls collection is living somewhere in my parents’ garage, or, if they were concerned about the outdoor cats spraying on them, somewhere deep in a closet, where it probably hasn’t seen the light of day since my mother “borrowed” some of the houses for a display at the local library. Long story short, I think those villages look cool, but I have no use for them at this stage in my life. What I also don’t have room for, but somehow end up getting on a semi-regular basis, is porcelain figurines, dolls, and ornaments. At some point (most definitely not today) I’ll have to tell the story about my childhood and porcelain dolls. It’s safe to say they don’t freak me out. One of my favorites (which I actually did not get!) was a Belle figurine, which was probably on display thanks to the recently released movie. I did take a picture of it, though, as I love the take on the costume design.

I was almost done wandering, and thinking that I might have actually gotten out of a Christmas themed store scott free (aka, without buying much of anything) when I turned around and found myself face to face with, not nutcrackers, but ornaments…from the Nutcracker Suite. 

For those of you not familiar with the story of the Nutcracker, it goes somewhat like this: A little girl named Clara is given a nutcracker at a family Christmas Eve gathering by Drosselmeyer, her slightly kooky uncle/godfather who moonlights as an enchanted toy maker (or just a regular toy maker, depending on who is telling the story). Franz, her brother, who was given a Generic Toy™, resents the fact that Drosselmeyer clearly favors Clara and tries to steal the nutcracker from her. In the ensuing scuffle, Franz breaks the Nutcracker. Drosselmeyer gives the Nutcracker a temporary “fix” and puts a bandage on its arm. That night, Clara sneaks downstairs to sleep on the couch by the Christmas tree, and ends up in the middle of a fight between the Rat King and the Nutcracker and his toy soldiers (it’s inferred that Drosselmeyer made them all come to life, but there’s also this weird business of Clara shrinking down to the size of all the toys, which includes the Christmas tree growing to like ten times its original size, and one time when I was a kid the cable that held the Christmas tree so it could “grow” snapped and the entire thing fell down). Clara saves the Nutcracker from the Rat King, and as a thank you, he takes her to his kingdom. Once they arrive, the royal court welcomes Clara, the Nutcracker retells the story of her daring rescue, and all of the people of the court perform for Clara (which is about half of the ballet). Each mini performance by the court is supposed to represent both a sweet and a nationality, breaking down usually as follows:

  • Chocolate/Spain
  • Coffee/Arabia
  • Tea/China
  • ???/Russia and Ukraine (I thought this one was Turkish Delight, but I was more recently informed that they’re supposed to be Candy Canes)
  • Marzipan (or lollipops, again, depending on the telling)/France
  • Marshmallow/The Circus (because apparently that’s it’s own country)
  • Flowers/???
  • Sugar Plum Fairy/Fantasyland

Basically, the sweet/nationality thing only works for part of the time, but it’s a fun way to cause confusion hundreds of years after you compose and choreograph a ballet.

But back to Noël Eternel. There I was, facing a collection of dancing Nutcracker ornaments, with Chocolate, Coffee, Tea, Turkish Delight, and Mother Marshmallow staring back at me. They had a Sugar Plum Fairy, too, but she was obviously from a different collection, and honestly, she’s not that hard to find. But the other sweets? I don’t think I’ve ever seen any collectible/purchasable item from them in my life, and I immediately Had. To. Have. Them.

So I bought all five, which rang up to essentially my daily travel allowance, and I couldn’t be happier. They are now sitting in their pretty white boxes just to the left of my computer, waiting for Christmas to come around.

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