Over a week ago now, I went semi-viral on Twitter for sharing a photograph I took of my local six-foot-tall municipal John Calvin nutcracker.
I write a lot of haunting things into which I pour my heart and soul, and people don’t notice them. Whenever I get retweeted dozens of times, it’s for something goofy like a John Calvin nutcracker.
A surprising number of people would love a municipal John Calvin nutcracker for their very own, as I found out later that afternoon. But an even larger number of people have never heard of a John Calvin nutcracker and can’t understand why there was one standing in a planter along Fourth Street in Steubenville. So I realized I had to back up and explain. The reason there’s a John Calvin nutcracker standing in a planter on Fourth Street in Steubenville, is that Steubenville is out of its mind. And for several weeks in November through January, it’s out of its mind in a fun way.
Every year, from just before Thanksgiving until after the first week of January, Steubenville hosts a delightfully eccentric Christmas display called “The Nutcracker Village.” The Nutcracker Village is a collection of well over 100 six-foot tall nutcrackers commissioned by schools, clubs, businesses and places of worship in Steubenville and the surrounding area, each of them with a different theme. It’s all put on by a local business and yes, they have a gift shop. You’re going to want to click on that link and buy yourself some miniature replicas of the public art, because they are hilarious. I am incredibly crabby and cynical about living in Steubenville, as my readers know, but this time of year almost makes it worthwhile.
Let me take you on a little walking tour of downtown Steubenville, the one time of year that it’s pretty. All these photos and the videos I link to are my own, taken on my tour of the Nutcracker Village a couple of weeks ago. Let’s get started.
I began in the yard of the Episcopal Church, which has a good combination of sweet and scary nutcrackers. You can see them in this short video because there were too many to photograph. I don’t know why they put all the Catholic saints in an Episcopal churchyard either, but it looked lovely.
Down the block, a safe distance from the Catholic saints, we have the aforementioned John Calvin and Martin Luther, looking grim.
If there was ever a man born, or should I say predestined, to be commemorated in nutcracker format, it was John Calvin. The grimace just suits him so well.
Further down the street we have a chef, a Lois Lane and Clark Kent, and a scary pirate:
Down the block in front of the theater we have the Rat Pack, because everything in Steubenville has to include an homage to Dean Martin.
And across the street, some nutcrackers who are concerned with your health.
I’m just skipping around and showing you my favorites because there are so many. Up Market Street, I took a video of some Christmas Cryptids. Take a look at this Saint Nicholas, because that’s going to be really funny later.
This Terminator nutcracker is responsible for some bad dad jokes along the lines of “I’ll be Bach. I’ll by Tchaikovsky.”
Next we have David Bowie as Starman, who has the opposite problem of John Calvin. Calvin was so perfect for making into a nutcracker that it’s right in uncanny valley. Bowie looked nothing like a nutcracker, so the effigy doesn’t really resemble him. But it’s a good faith effort, considering the format.
David Bowie is the nutcracker who was famously stolen right off his pedestal one night, as I chronicled years ago.
Outside the lovely Book Marx Bookstore we have Ebenezer Scrooge:
Mr. Marx also has the largest house cat I’ve ever seen, and I went in to visit the cat at this point in my walking tour.
Now come the artsy nutcrackers. These lovely ones in the middle of Fourth Street were my favorite part.
And then a parade of ethnic nutcrackers sponsored by various churches and clubs nearby:
And then we turn the corner, and there’s a very patriotic display of nutcrackers at the courthouse which I recorded as I walked by.
Finally, there’s the chalets selling fudge and honey and other local products at the Fort Steuben park.
And that’s the tour!
Now there is one more fun news item about the Steubenville Nutcrackers I’ve been putting off telling you. Remember when I said that someone once stole the David Bowie effigy and took it for a joy ride? Surely that sounds like the silliest thing in the world to you. No doubt you thought to yourself, “Who would steal a lifesized one-of-a-kind nutcracker off municipal property, in front of cameras, and the return it a few hours later? Did they think no one would miss it? Did they think they could pass it off as ANOTHER nutcracker they just happened to own that looked like it?” You probably thought that nobody else would ever be stupid enough to pilfer a Steubenville nutcracker. But you would be wrong.
It happened again this year. It was the Saint Nicholas nutcracker, and again, the whole thing was caught on camera.
These security camera photos were posted publicly to Facebook by Mr. Nelson who runs the Nutcracker Village display. Please take your time to admire them. I can’t decide if my favorite part is that someone decided to steal a nutcracker in the first place, or that they thought they could get away with it by wearing sunglasses and a hoodie while driving away with the nutcracker clearly visible in the back of the pickup truck. But after some consideration, I think the best part has to be the poor bishop of Myra lying supine in the back of the truck still clutching his crosier. Someone’s getting a lump of coal for Christmas.
In any case, the thief soon realized you can’t get far with a kidnapped saint in the bed of your truck, and the nutcracker was returned safe and sound.
If only all of Steubenville’s problems were solved so easily.
This town is a silly place, but this time of year I don’t mind.
Image via Pixabay
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.
Steel Magnificat operates almost entirely on tips. To tip the author, visit our donate page.