Vintage Christmas decorations - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Vintage Christmas decorations

© / Mike Bentley © / Mike Bentley

By Michelle Ullman

Depending on your age, "vintage" might bring to mind the 1970s, the 1950s, or even the 1940s. But it usually evokes a sense of nostalgia for one's childhood, and a style associated with simpler times. As with everything else, holiday decorating goes through fashions and styles, and the tree you remember as if it was yesterday has become today's vintage look.

Defining "Vintage"

The words "antique", "vintage", and "retro" are sometimes used interchangeably, and can be somewhat confusing to separate. Though there are no hard-and-fast rules about defining these terms in decorating, generally:

Antique refers to an item made 100 or more years ago.

Vintage items are more than 30 years old, and the term is particularly used for the styles popular between the 1930s and 1950s.

Retro items are new, but made in the style of a bygone era. Often, items called retro are fashioned after the designs of the 1960s and 1970s.

Where Can You Find Vintage Christmas Decorations?

If this is your year to go vintage, you'll need to track down holiday décor from decades past.

Start with your parents, grandparents or other elderly relatives. Ask if they have any Christmas decorations packed away that they are willing to part with. You have an excellent chance of finding treasured holiday relics you remember from your own childhood in boxes long stashed away in someone's garage or attic.

Check out thrift stores, antique shops and consignment stores.

Look for neighborhood moving sales. Often when people are downsizing, they sell boxes of holiday decorations at their garage sales.

Watch for auctions on eBay, or scan through your local Craigslist postings.

Do You Want to Decorate a 1950s-Style Tree?

Your kids might be astounded, but for a truly 1950s Christmas style, it's hard to beat the amazingly kitsch, yet strangely beautiful, silver aluminum tree with a revolving colored light underneath. The tree is eye-catching enough on its own; but filled with garland, colorful glass and plastic ball ornaments and a big, glittery star topper, it becomes a true showstopper.

If you prefer something a little more natural, set up your real or faux Christmas tree, and fill it with individually placed strands of silver tinsel, a very popular style in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Skip this look if you have pets, as tinsel can be very harmful if swallowed by a curious animal. If you want a similar effect without the bother of placing tinsel strands, you can get a close approximation by winding tinsel garland through the branches.

Do You Love the Look of the Early 1900s?

If vintage to you means the elegant look of the 1930s or earlier, recreate the style in your Christmas tree. Wind broad ribbons through the branches, along with strands of bead garland. Trim the tree with glass ball ornaments in frosted metallics, deep burgundy, purple and tan. Add in glass snowflakes, bird ornaments and glass icicles. Finish the tree with an ornately designed glass star.

Beautiful, blown-glass ornaments were very popular through the first half of the 1900s. Plain glass balls, glittered ornaments, or concave and hollowed balls all adorned Christmas trees, as well as many themed glass ornaments. Some particularly favored designs were:

Candy Canes

Hang delicate glass ornaments high up in your tree where little hands or playful pets can't knock them to the ground.

Another popular style for trimming trees in the first half of the 1900s was bird ornaments that clipped to the branches. Some were completely covered with feathers, some were glass with feather details, and still others were felt with feathery touches. You can still find vintage bird ornaments in many different colors and many varieties of birds. Complete the look with bead garland woven through the tree's branches.

Did You Grow up in the 1960s or ‘70s?

If you are a child of the ‘60s, the tree you remember might well have been an artificial tree in a highly unnatural white, silver or even blue. Aluminum trees were popular, shimmering with bristled garland branches. You can still find these trees on eBay, and once filled with glass and plastic colored ornaments, you'll have the groovy feel of your childhood back for your own kids to enjoy.

Along with disco, heavily decorated trees filled with metallic garland were stylish in the ‘70s. Add in lights, and trim with ornaments in themes that were popular during that era, including:

Peanuts cartoon characters
Pointy-hat elves
Peace signs

If you grew up in the 1950s through the 1970s, you likely have fond memories of the tall, thin, liquid-filled Christmas lights that bubbled on the tree. Though still made in plastic, try to track down vintage, glass lights for an authentic look.

Another popular look during that era was flocked Christmas trees, but these have fallen out of favor, due to the health risks associated with flocking material and the mess it created.

Whatever decade vintage means to you, decorating your tree for the holidays in a vintage style not only recreates the simpler, happier days of childhood, it also provides a welcome change from contemporary, mass-produced décor that lacks the personality of bygone eras. Bring the past into your present; and trim your Christmas tree in the style you remember from your youth.

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