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My Favorite Vintage and Collectible Christmas Decorations

Writing Nag is a pseudonym of blogger Patricia Biro. She writes about home and garden, finance, creative writing, and vintage collectibles.

Anthropomorphic vintage Christmas postcard

Anthropomorphic vintage Christmas postcard

Vintage Christmas Decorations

Many people get nostalgic during the holiday season, specifically for the warm memories of their childhood Christmases. We may listen to Bing Crosby singing White Christmas. Or watch gentle snowflakes falling on Christmas Eve as we decorate the house with many of the same, now "vintage Christmas" decorations.

In our family's photographs of past holiday gatherings, there are shiny, silver metallic trees decorated with colored glass glittered and flocked ornaments, German paper mache candy containers, 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 Christmas apron as she prepared her delicious bourbon-spiked cherry nut cake. Colorful platters, festively-decorated bottle-brush 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. Mom or dad will add candy canes to the tree on Christmas Eve.

Most of our ornaments were American-made, high-quality glass and mercury ornaments from companies like Shiny Brite. Today vintage-inspired reproduction ornaments from Kurt Adler and Old World Christmas can replace missing or broken heirlooms.

Many decorations were German-made. I distinctly remember a diorama of wooden angels ascending the stairs to Heaven. The angels are playing golden instruments. 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, many of my family's 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

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 heat of the flame caused the brass cut-out angels to spin around and gently hit a brass bell.

Holt Howard's line was very popular throughout the '50s and '60s and included: ceramic and bottle-brush trees, angels, winking Santas, 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 (shown above) 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

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.

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True vintage aprons and linens can be found in 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?

German immigrants brought the feather tree to America.

President Theodore Roosevelt campaigned against live trees, which sparked more interest in feather trees.

Gurley Candles

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 candle reproductions from The Vermont Country Store.

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 were the Shiny Brite ornaments with white flocking that said Merry Christmas or Silent Night with vintage Christmas images.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Patricia Biro

Do you decorate with vintage Christmas decorations?

TerriCarr on February 19, 2014:

It makes sense that you would like little Christmas Villages if you like little fairy houses :-)

Ellen Gregory from Connecticut, USA on January 01, 2013:

I love vintage. It's warmer than modern Christmas decorations. Nice lens.

lilblackdress lm on December 29, 2012:

I remember when the Whitman's chocolates came with a pixie knee hugger ornament attached. So cute!

Lovely lens!

Wendy Leanne from Texas on December 28, 2012:

What a fun lens! =)

Diva2Mom on December 28, 2012:

I love Vintage Christmas decorations, and this lens is fabulous :). Great job, my dear. BLESSED by a little Squid Angel. God bless you and huge hug!

gottaloveit2 on December 28, 2012:

The little vintage elves are adorable! They'd look just right hanging around my 1857 farmhouse.

June Campbell from North Vancouver, BC, Canada on December 24, 2012:

Well, no, I don't. I make all my own decorations -- but some have a vintage theme.

thesuccess2 on December 19, 2012:

Oh Gosh 6 days to Xmas!!

anonymous on December 19, 2012:

Writingnag, this is a beautiful Christmas lens. Merry Christmas!

Shelly Sellers from Midwest U.S.A. on December 18, 2012:

I love the vintage frosted Christmas lights! We had an shiny, silver Christmas tree and loved it!

ismeedee on December 18, 2012:

Oh, I adore those elves!!!! I definitely love all the vintage stuff! Lovely lens!!

pawpaw911 on December 17, 2012:

Seeing vintage Christmas decorations brings back a lot of memories.

anonymous on December 16, 2012:

Super decorations for Christmas day

Iudit Gherghiteanu from Ozun on December 15, 2012:

Happy Christmas, this is what i feel i should tell you now, seeing your photos. I do decorate, i will have a live Christmas tree, which will stay with me until the spring, when i will plant it in the garden.

anonymous on December 14, 2012:

I used to - until our crazy, evil cat arrived:). He thinks that Christmas tree ornaments are some kind of enemy, the moment he sees them, DESTROY is written all over his face:). I have a few vintage christmas ornament myself, my grandma gave them to me a few years ago. She is no longer vith us now and that makes them eaven more special and precious. This is a fantastic lens, thank you for sharing. Bookmarked and liked!

Timothy Arends from Chicago area on December 13, 2012:

I love the kneehugger elves!

BackyardChickenK on December 11, 2012:

Darling lens! The vintage ornaments are lovely. I especially like the blown glass ones.

Vikki from US on December 08, 2012:

Yeah, I love my vintage! Blessed ;)

Jo-Jackson on December 06, 2012:

I only have a few of my mothers ornaments, but they bring back such lovely memories each year as I add them to the tree.

Barbara Walton from France on December 05, 2012:

I love your selection here but, no, I'm afraid I just go for cheap and cheerful or free and natural! I expect the ornaments that we used to use to decorate our tree when I was little could be classed as vintage now.

Two Crafty Paws on December 02, 2012:

Not exactly. We do have a few vintage ornaments that are always on the tree though. Sentimental value and all that =)

anonymous on December 01, 2012:

most wonderful lenses

anonymous on November 22, 2012:

I have some vintage bells that I use. These are great.

WriterJanis2 on November 12, 2012:

I do have some decorations I've picked up. Very nice lens.

montanatravel52 on November 12, 2012:

I love "vintage" stuff, but have not used it for Christmas, great ideas, thanks!

SMW1962 LM on November 11, 2012:

This lens brings back memories.....

Gloria Freeman from Alabama USA on November 05, 2012:

I enjoyed reading this lens, Blessed and added to my lens...Squid Angel flinnie.

Gloria Freeman from Alabama USA on November 05, 2012:

Hi these are such pretty vintage Christmas decorations.

daisychainsaw lm on October 21, 2012:

I love to find vintage Christmas decorations, this is a lovely inspirational lens, thank you!

tomoxby on October 12, 2012:

I love more traditional type Christmas decorations.

Donnette Davis from South Africa on October 07, 2012:

What a delightful lens, thank you. Blessed by a Squid Angel x

Please add your lens to the Plexo for my October Blessings

Tonto Murray on October 04, 2012:

Such lovely Christmas collectibles. Thanks for sharing. Blessed

KayeSI on September 02, 2012:

What a lovely lens! And such sweet family memories - for you AND for me. My parents had those cute elves on their tree waaaaay back when. Thanks for reminding me :) And thanks for your lovely visit and likes. Have a Merry Christmas in September :)

Georgene Moizuk Bramlage from southwestern Virginia on June 11, 2012:

Yes, I do. I am so glad to have found your lens. Now I know where to find more of those of fantastic Gurley Christmas Candles that I love. Well done.

Rose Jones on June 04, 2012:

This is a very beautiful lens - angel blessed!

Patricia Biro (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on June 04, 2012:

@MaryThereseBenn: Thanks for the sweet words!

Patricia Biro (author) from Colorado Springs, Colorado on June 04, 2012:

@Karen5657: thanks so much Karen!

Karen5657 on June 04, 2012:

What a very nice lens. You are a beautiful writer also. I also really love the way you chose to layout your lens, and also how you monetized it. Great job! I also learned a couple of things while reading your lens, so that is great for me. I also am a softy when it comes to Christmas times when we were growing up. Thank you for putting this lens together. :-)

MaryThereseBenn on May 28, 2012:

W-ell, they might be considered vintage, but they are really just favorites that I remember from childhood. I love your lens, it was like a walk down memory lane!!

Leah J. Hileman from East Berlin, PA, USA on February 20, 2012:

I have a few pieces that I have inherited from my grandparents. They are among my favorites because of all the happy memories attached to them.

Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on January 08, 2012:

I love these vintage Christmas decorations. I have a few but am always on the lookout for more!

KimGiancaterino on January 05, 2012:

This reminds me so much of my grandmother's tree when I was a kid. I looked forward to seeing it every year, and still have many ornaments that she made. Happy new year!

Treasures By Brenda from Canada on January 01, 2012:

I don't own many vintage Christmas pieces but I do love them.

anonymous on December 21, 2011:

Some of these vintage Christmas ornaments I had forgotten about! Thanks for the warm memories.

fullofshoes on December 20, 2011:

I love vintage everything, including Christmas decorations. Beautiful lens!

Sandy Mertens from Frozen Tundra on December 16, 2011:

Blessed! Please add this to my Christmas Gifts and Blessings lens.

nursecraft on December 15, 2011:

I have some great ornaments from my Grandma and keep them for a special tree.

hlkljgk from Western Mass on December 14, 2011:

I just love the vintage blown glass ornaments

Arc2011 on December 05, 2011:

Enjoyed reading it. Great lens.

Rose Jones on December 04, 2011:

I really enjoyed, this and read it slowly - I never knew about putz houses and hanging elves1

andradar on December 02, 2011:

We do not buy new decorations every year, so some of the decorations is pretty old

other new - mix. I liked vintage Christmas images - very sweet. Thank you!

MayaBella LM on December 02, 2011:

Love it all! Especially the hanging elves. So cute!

anonymous on December 01, 2011:

I have the most charming little tree in on an antique dresser in my has a variety of knee hugger elves. Everyone loves it!

Violin-Student on December 01, 2011:

I really enjoyed this page. Traditional is great, and if you know me, you'll know I'd add Christmas Trains running around the tree. Thanks!

That's My Two Cents

--Art Haule

KevCooper on November 30, 2011:

Nice lens, if it's not traditional it's not Christmas for me.

Christine Larsen from South Australia on November 29, 2011:

I surely do, but mine are mostly handmade - some inherited, some made by our children many years ago, and most made by myself, and added to - year after year.

Just love Christmas!

Thanks again for your blessing.


chgreen on November 28, 2011:

Love vintage. I did lenses on Vintage gift wrap and Vintage Christmas magazines. Thanks for sharing. Merry Christmas!

blujeanmomma from Rocky Mountains on November 28, 2011:

Being born in the 50's these decorations bring back sweet memories. Over the last few years I have been adding to our collection of vintage decorations and they just seem to put a smile on your face when you see them.

anonymous on November 24, 2011:

Love anything vintage, especially the cute hanging elves.

RobinDM on November 24, 2011:

I don't have but a few. Thanks for these lovely ideas!

beckyf on November 23, 2011:

I remember those knee-hugger elves from when we were kids. Never knew they had become collectible though.

jdwheeler on November 22, 2011:

Nice finds. Enjoyed the walk down memory lane.

mincass on November 21, 2011:

I absolutely love Vintage decorations! It feels so traditional and I find a lot of these designs to be very beautiful.

TobyHeatonArmstrong on November 20, 2011:

Just like you, I LOVE Christmas! Will be passing on for my Wife to read as she loves vintage and would enjoy this take on Christmas!

Rose Jones on November 17, 2011:

I decorate with as many beautiful things as I can! And I love shopping for antiques, so I will pick up any decorations I find that are pretty.

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