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josie's avatar

What is the original reference to the "Sugar Plum Fairy"?

Asked by josie (22932 points ) December 16th, 2010

My dad was a die hard Beatles fan, and I grew up listening to their music.
At the beginning of one their songs, somebody whispers “Sugar Plum Fairy, Sugar Plum Fairy”
In another 60s song, (that my dad thought was cool because it sounded like jazz) a guy says “Sugar Plum Fairy came and hit the streets…”
Obviously, before the 60s, there was knowledge of something or someone called Sugar Plum Fairy.
And in “T’was The Night Before Christmas”, the children have visions of sugar plums.
So what exactly is a sugar plum?
And where did the Sugar Plum Fairy come from?

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19 Answers

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

The Sugar Plum Fairy is one of the characters in The Nutcracker. She’s not technically the lead, but in a way, it’s kinda all about the Sugar Plum Fairy – the lead, Clara, is just a child (although played by a young woman) so the Sugar Plum Fairy is giving more technical demands. She is the sovereign of sweets.

josie's avatar

@papayalily And in spite of all the crazy stuff I have done and seen, I have never seen The Nutcracker. I feel a little provincial. Thanks.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@josie : it’s fun, you should go.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@josie It’s wonderful. I’m going to see it this coming Monday – it’s a Christmas tradition. It’s sort of freakishly great for kids – most ballets are the most boring thing in the world for kids, but put candy and Christmas and they perk right up. There’s probably a broadcast version from PBS floating around on the internet for you (should you be so inclined as to watch it).

kenmc's avatar

@josie That second song you refer to is Walk on the Wild Side by Lou Reed, fyi.

YARNLADY's avatar

The origin of the Sugar Plum Faeries is from early German legends of sugarplum faeries who dance in your head on Christmas Eve to help you sleep.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@YARNLADY Really? How interesting. Do you perhaps know of somewhere online I could read more about it? I find ancient fairytales to be fascinating.

YARNLADY's avatar

I’m sorry, I don’t. The History of Christmas sites I looked at were not very detailed.

JLeslie's avatar

The Nutcracker is fantastic. If you are only going to see it once in your life, try to make sure you see it done by a very good Ballet group. There is nothing like the New York Ballet at Lincoln Center, if you think you might be in NYC during the month of December. If you do something local, don’t bother with a local college group or something like that, should be something performed at one of the major venues in a major city, even if it is the largest city just in your area. Best if it is a live orchestra. Even better if you have children or neices to bring along with you, they will love it. Nutcracker has magic in it. I took a friend of mine’s kids last year, and they had face painting and real reindeer at the matinee for the children. Don’t get me wrong it is for adults too. Dressing up a little for dinner and an evening at the Ballet during Christmas is a wonderful date. You will know some of the music just from listening to Christmas music in the past. I go almost every year.

JLeslie's avatar

T’was the night before Christmas…while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads. I think sugar plums are actually sweets in Germany? We need Mattbrowne on this question. I had not known Sugar Plum fairies help you sleep on Christmas. Interesting.

The Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker rules the Land of the Sweets. The audience is not sure if it is Clara’s dream, or if she was actually transported to this magical place (I think in the original tale she was named Marie or Maria).

JLeslie's avatar

Oh, I found this about sugar plums

josie's avatar

@JLeslie Good stuff. Thanks

JLeslie's avatar

In fact, the more I think about it. The dances performed are Chocolate (Spanish), Coffee (Arabian), Candy Cane (Russian), Marzipan (can’t remember the country) and some others. Special foods or sweets from around the world. So, all of the delicacies are represented as dancers. And, then there is the Sugar Plum Fairy, basically a sugar plum represented by a dancer. So, now I am very curious if these sugar plum fairies are part of German folklore. Never thought about this ballet so intensely.

BarnacleBill's avatar

Here’s a recipe for Sugar Plums

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@JLeslie
Spanish Hot Chocolate Performers
Arabian Coffee Performers
Chinese Tea Performers
Russian Candy Cane Performers
Danish Marzipan Shepherdess Performers
Mother Gigogne and her Buffoons (French Bon-bons)

JLeslie's avatar

I cannot beliveve I forgot Tea. My favorite when I was a child was the Chinese dancers! Thanks @papayalily

perspicacious's avatar

As far as I know it’s The Nutcracker. I didn’t research it though.

JLeslie's avatar

@BarnacleBill I just looked at that recipe and it reminds me of my grandmother’s Passover candies. They did not have fruit, but the nuts and honey and spice brought back that memory. Wish I could make some now,

YARNLADY's avatar

@perspicacious The Sugar plum Fairy was around for generations before Tchaikovsky put it in his operetta.

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