From Christmas: A Biography by Judith Flanders:
“After the trees had been bought, they then acted as a commodity to display other commodities. Particularly in the earlier parts of the nineteenth century, when presents were hung from their branches and decorations were edible, these items were removed from display on the tree’s branches, just as items were removed from a shop cabinet and handed to the customers. Trees in the USA were often placed by a window overlooking the street, unconsciously echoing shop-window displays. Thus, when tree ornaments became available to purchase, it was a natural progression.
“From the beginning, Germany was the leader in the manufacture of these ornaments. By the early eighteenth century the tin-mines of the Erzgebirge mountains, in Saxony, in south-eastern Germany, were almost exhausted. To eke out a living, the miners created handmade gifts for Christmas markets….
“These carved-wood nutcrackers, toys and decorations made in regional style soon became representative of German Christmas style more generally, along with the regional hand-blown glass ornaments…..”
“The cabinet was miraculously lit and it was filled with a loud hubbub. All the Harlequins, the Pierrots, the Punchinellos, and the jumping jacks were on the move, scurrying hither and yon….
“Finally, Nutcracker himself flung away his covers and with two feet together he leaped off the bed and onto the floor, yelling: ‘Crack! Crack! Crack! Stupid heap of mice! Get back to your holes or I’ll take care of you on the spot!'”