Christmas Eve, 1818

Snow fell softly as the cold December wind blew gently. The sun had just set in the horizon, and the street lamps decorated with red bows were just now being lit. Children were ice-skating on the frozen pond; men and women were bidding "Merry Christmas" to each other, and all of the homes in the neighborhood were decorated for the holiday. The ground snow seemed to sparkle under the light of the street lamps as they were marked with various footprints going in different directions.

Most of the wealthier families in town were making their way to the Ryan's mansion on this December evening. Dr. Edmund Ryan and his wife Josephine threw lavish parties each holiday and birthday celebration, but those closest to them knew their Christmas Eve parties were the most exciting. There was always something about the Christmas parties that seemed almost magical. Was it the glamorously decorated tree? The overall atmosphere? Or Herr Drosselmeier's surprises? No one could put his or her finger on what it was.

Herr Drosselmeier was known for being quite the character around town. He owned and ran a toy shop in the heart of the city, and every child always had some story to tell about a supposedly "magical" toy they were presented with. Drosselmeier always encouraged and treasured the imagination of a child's mind and always used it as his excuse for the stories the children would tell of their wondrous toys. He was quite a mysterious man, but he had a heart of gold and joy that shown brightly despite his ominous appearance.

Dr. Ryan and Herr Drosselmeier were close friends and colleagues when he started his medical practice in town; when the doctor's children, Carrie and Thomas, were born, the toy maker became their godfather. Drosselmeier loved the children as if they were his own. His most prized works were always given to them as they grew.

Now that Carrie had turned eighteen, she had put away most of her toys but never got rid of them. Thomas, being much younger than his sister, was still fond of Drosselmeier's work.

Although Carrie was a young woman expected to find a husband, by her mother's standards, Drosselmeier had one last gift for her.