Every year before Christmas, I take my children to see a local dance company’s production of The Nutcracker. Depending on the date, it sometimes falls during Advent, or other times just before. Although this is not a ballet with a religious theme (aside from the fact that it takes place on Christmas Eve), I see a lot of faith-related benefit in this family tradition.
To provide some context, I have a lifelong love of dance and the performing arts, and so became familiar with The Nutcracker as a child. I love going to the ballet in general, but The Nutcracker always struck me as different. The opening party sequence features adults who do not dance at all, but set a scene for a breathtaking and exciting Christmas Eve, to the delight of their children. We see dancing dolls, beautifully wrapped gifts under a giant, sparkling tree, children playing, and a nutcracker doll that captures the imagination of our main heroine, Clara. When her brother breaks the doll’s jaw, she is heartbroken. That night, as she sleeps, she dreams of the nutcracker doll coming to life, battling the evil mice who come to invade the house. When the nutcracker transforms into a prince who leads Clara to a land of pirouetting candies and a showcase of dancers from around the world. Clara’s dreamy universe becomes our happy place too, somewhere we can be joyful and carefree.
This ballet’s association with the pre-Christmas season in North America accounts for a good deal of its popularity, to be sure. As a child, I wanted to be Clara, swept away by the handsome prince to a land where no worries were allowed. As an adult sharing this story with my own children, I see the sense of wonder and awe that are portrayed as ideal attributes for when the performance inevitably falls on the liturgical calendar: Advent. It is certainly difficult in our modern age to impress upon my children that the time between American Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve is not actually the Christmas season; that season only *begins* on December 25th, and lasts for nearly two weeks afterward. Beforehand, we are in the season of Advent, a time of expectation and quiet joy of what is to come. I think that our tradition of going to see The Nutcracker annually during this part of the year reminds my children of this fact. It is not yet Christmas, but yet we should be filled with excitement and wonder with what Our Savior has in store for us.
Our faith is often depicted in art, and the ballet does not have to be an exception. Whenever I see a stained glass window, or a painting, of the nativity depicted as a darkened scene of mother and father admiring the new infant with awe-filled joy, I think of Advent. Indeed, *this* is what we are waiting for as we journey through Advent. In Christmas season, we celebrate, but in Advent we anticipate. The Nutcracker inspires that sweet anticipation within me, and I hope that it does for my children, as well.
Have you seen The Nutcracker? What do you think of its message? Do you have any family traditions during Advent that impress a sense of expectant joy? I’d love to hear from you!
Copyright 2017 Tiffany Walsh