My Favorite Vintage and Collectible Christmas Decorations
As many people do, I get very nostalgic during the holiday season specifically for my childhood Christmases. I want to hear Bing Crosby singing White Christmas and watch gentle snowflakes falling on Christmas Eve as we decorate the house with the same, now "vintage Christmas," decorations my grandmother and mother grew up with.
In our family's photographs of past holiday gatherings, there are shiny, silver metallic trees decorated with colored glass, glittered and flocked ornaments, and mercury glass icicles. It's the late 50's and early 60's and companies including Shiny Brite, Coby Glass Products, Stafford, Holt Howard, R. Dakin, Lefton, and Napco decorations are in vogue.
Crisp linens decorated with red and silver embroidered Santas, poinsettias and reindeer covered the kitchen table, and Nana wore her festive apron as she prepared her delicious bourbon-spiked cherry nut cake. There are colorful platters, festively-decorated bottlebrush trees, and hot spiced apple cider.
The house smells like bayberry, fresh balsam wreaths, Frasier Fir, and pinon pine. We wait patiently for our parents to say, "It's time to decorate the tree!" And then up to the attic we go to bring down our much beloved decorations. Soon we'll have a beautifully decorated tree complete with a train running around the skirted base. On Christmas Eve, candy canes will be added to the tree.
Most of our ornaments were American made, high-quality glass and mercury ornaments from companies like Shiny Brite. Some were German made, I distinctly remember a diorama of wooden angels ascending the stairs to Heaven, the angels are playing golden instruments and the box is decorated with a sapphire blue velvet backdrop, angel hair and twinkling stars.
After the holiday season was over, our beloved ornaments would be carefully wrapped in tissue paper and put back in the original boxes; today 40 years later my beautiful vintage decorations still look like new.
I will Honour Christmas in My Heart, and Try to Keep it all the Year.— Charles Dickens
Holt Howard, was an American company that began in 1949. Their first line of Christmas items included the very popular brass candelabrum called Angel Abra. Angel Abra sat in a very prominent spot in our living room. The candelabrum held four white candles. When the candles were lit the brass cut out angels spun around and gently hit a brass bell.
Holt Howard's line was very popular throughout the 50's and 60's and included: ceramic and bottlebrush trees, angels, winking Santa's, mugs, candle huggers, place cards and holders, pixies, elves, candy dishes, trays and more. In the first years the items were made in America but in later years they manufactured Holt Howard items in Japan. Unusual Holt Howard collectibles include the My Fair Lady head vase decorated with holly leaves and complete with mercury glass earrings.
These holiday items that many of us grew up with are now highly collectible due to nostalgic buyers and the increase of availability in online auctions.
Vintage Christmas Linens
Every year I would look forward to my Nana's Christmas linens decorating the tables all around the house. Recently, I found a reproduction of one of my favorite vintage tablecloths. Decorated with Merry Christmas, Santa Claus and the proverbial red and green it offers a retro look to your holiday decorating.
True vintage aprons and linens can be found on online auctions, flea markets, garage sales and auction houses.
Victorian Glass Kugels
I first saw Victorian glass Christmas ornaments in an old Martha Stewart Living magazine. These beautiful hand blown and mercury glass baubles come in many different colors and were often made in Germany. Look for silver, gold, cobalt blue, green, and shades of pink. Often you will see glass kugels displayed on vintage feather trees. Kugel ornaments include: different shapes and sizes of 2 inch or 4 inch balls, eggs, pears or grapes.
If you know your friend or family member loves Vintage Christmas gift them a piece of nostalgic Christmas!
Way before "The Elf on the Shelf" there were three metallic elves or "knee huggers" that sat in the three windows of our living room. These jolly elves were dressed in shiny metallic suits of red, gold and silver with pom poms on their hats and bells on their toes. We loved to arrange them so they could look out the window at the falling snow.
These popular decorations were made in Japan by various companies during the late 1950s and 1960s and have now become very collectible. Some knee huggers have felt faces but most have vinyl faces and come dressed in red and green suits, striped suits or metallic suits. Some elves are permanently in the knee hugger position while other ones can be stretched out and arranged wherever you need a little Christmas!
Did You Know?
That German immigrants brought the feather tree to America?
That President Theodore Roosevelt campaigned against live trees which sparked more interest in feather trees?
Manufactured in the 1930s through the 1960s by The Gurley Candle Company of Buffalo, New York, these collectible candles found a place in almost every American home. These inexpensive candles weren't usually burned as candles but instead they were displayed on mantles or tables. Look for choir boys, angels, trees, snowmen, Santa and drummer boys. Some are marked Tavern candles. Collectors look for rare candles in good condition with the original Gurley label. Also very collectible are the Gurley candle sets that include a nativity set.
If you just like the look but don't want to pay the high price for the collectible Gurley originals you can buy new Gurley Christmas candles reproductions from The Vermont Country Store.
Putz Houses - Christmas Villages
Putz Glitter House
Putz houses didn't start in Japan but many were made in Japan. These early paste-board houses were common and simply decorated and some later ones were decorated with mica and glitter. Higher quality putz houses have colored cellophane windows and a place to put an electric tree light in the back. The houses were often set on mantles or railroad tables as part of a display. Recently I read they were called putz houses because people would "putz" around getting their Christmas displays just right up until Christmas Eve.
Whether you called them snow villages, Christmas villages, or Xmas towns I have strong memories of visiting neighbors houses during the holiday season and gazing at the tiny people with glittered and flocked mini houses, bottlebrush trees, Barclay figurines of skaters skating on mirrored ponds and painted metal carolers visiting the lit houses, churches and shops.
Midwest of Cannon Falls
Midwest of Cannon Falls has a beautiful line of Christmas decorations if you love the look of vintage Christmas. They've taken some of the vintage favorites like winking Santa, bottlebrush trees, and snowmen and decorated them with mica glitter and other vintage looking embellishments.
Vintage Blown Glass Christmas Ornaments
Originally many of the hand blown glass Christmas ornaments our grandparents had were imported from Germany or Italy. But according to Christopher Radko's company site, "During the war years, imported glass ornaments were no longer available, so America designed and created their own."
While I covet the original Shiny Brite ornaments that have a patina of Christmases past, it's nice to know that Christopher Radko is reproducing many of the same beautiful Christmas ornaments we grew up with. Look for reflectors, tree toppers, finials, and more.
Some of my favorites are the Shiny Brite ornaments with white flocking that said Merry Christmas or Silent Night with vintage Christmas images.
© 2011 Writing Nag