Although simple tools designed for cracking the shells of nuts have been around for hundreds - perhaps even thousands - of years, is it the history of the nutcracker doll which is most interesting. Since the late 17th century, nutcrackers shaped into notable public figures such as kings, knights, soldiers etc. have been given as gifts, particularly around Christmas time. The tradition originates from the Germans, who believed the nutcracker to be a symbol of good luck, protection and power. In order to fulfill its true function, the doll-shaped nutcracker's mouth is controlled by a level on its back, to allow the mouth to close and crack the nut. Nutcrackers crafted by renowned and skilled makers are often sought after on the collectors' market and can hold value. One of the most important names in nutcracker craft is Steinbach, a family who has produced fine nutcrackers for almost seven generations.