My Favorite Vintage and Collectible Christmas Decorations

Updated on October 28, 2017
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Writing Nag is the pseudonym for blogger Patricia Biro. She writes about home, finance, creative writing and anything and everything vintage

Anthropomorphic Vintage Christmas postcard
Anthropomorphic Vintage Christmas postcard | Source

Holiday Memories

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.

A Very Vintage Christmas: Holiday Collecting, Decorating and Celebrating
A Very Vintage Christmas: Holiday Collecting, Decorating and Celebrating

I purchased this book as a gift for myself but frequently buy copies as thank you gifts around holiday time. Beautiful photographs and display ideas for the vintage Christmas collector in your life.


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 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?

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 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

Do you decorate with vintage Christmas decorations?

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    • TerriCarr profile image

      TerriCarr 3 years ago

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

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

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

    • lilblackdress lm profile image

      lilblackdress lm 5 years ago

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

      Lovely lens!

    • Wendy Leanne profile image

      Wendy Leanne 5 years ago from Texas

      What a fun lens! =)

    • Diva2Mom profile image

      Diva2Mom 5 years ago

      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 profile image

      gottaloveit2 5 years ago

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

    • junecampbell profile image

      June Campbell 5 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada

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

    • thesuccess2 profile image

      thesuccess2 5 years ago

      Oh Gosh 6 days to Xmas!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

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

    • shellys-space profile image

      Shelly Sellers 5 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

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

    • ismeedee profile image

      ismeedee 5 years ago

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

    • profile image

      pawpaw911 5 years ago

      Seeing vintage Christmas decorations brings back a lot of memories.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Super decorations for Christmas day

    • juditpaton profile image

      Iudit Gherghiteanu 5 years ago from Ozun

      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.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      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!

    • TimothyArends profile image

      Timothy Arends 5 years ago from Chicago area

      I love the kneehugger elves!

    • BackyardChickenK profile image

      BackyardChickenK 5 years ago

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

    • choosehappy profile image

      Vikki 5 years ago from US

      Yeah, I love my vintage! Blessed ;)

    • Jo-Jackson profile image

      Jo-Jackson 5 years ago

      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.

    • BLouw profile image

      Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

      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 profile image

      Two Crafty Paws 5 years ago

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

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      most wonderful lenses

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

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

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 5 years ago

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

    • montanatravel52 profile image

      montanatravel52 5 years ago

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

    • SMW1962 LM profile image

      SMW1962 LM 5 years ago

      This lens brings back memories.....

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 5 years ago from Alabama USA

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

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 5 years ago from Alabama USA

      Hi these are such pretty vintage Christmas decorations.

    • daisychainsaw lm profile image

      daisychainsaw lm 5 years ago

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

    • profile image

      tomoxby 5 years ago

      I love more traditional type Christmas decorations.

    • profile image

      Donnette Davis 5 years ago from South Africa

      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 profile image

      Tonto Murray 5 years ago

      Such lovely Christmas collectibles. Thanks for sharing. Blessed

    • KayeSI profile image

      KayeSI 5 years ago

      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 :)

    • GeorgeneMBramlage profile image

      Georgene Moizuk Bramlage 5 years ago from southwestern Virginia

      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.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      This is a very beautiful lens - angel blessed!

    • TheWritingnag profile image

      Writing Nag 5 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado

      @MaryThereseBenn: Thanks for the sweet words!

    • TheWritingnag profile image

      Writing Nag 5 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado

      @Karen5657: thanks so much Karen!

    • Karen5657 profile image

      Karen5657 5 years ago

      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 profile image

      MaryThereseBenn 5 years ago

      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!!

    • captainj88 profile image

      Leah J. Hileman 5 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

      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.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 6 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

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

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 6 years ago

      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!

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 6 years ago from Canada

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

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

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

    • profile image

      fullofshoes 6 years ago

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

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 6 years ago from Frozen Tundra

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

    • profile image

      nursecraft 6 years ago

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

    • hlkljgk profile image

      hlkljgk 6 years ago from Western Mass

      I just love the vintage blown glass ornaments

    • profile image

      Arc2011 6 years ago

      Enjoyed reading it. Great lens.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 6 years ago

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

    • profile image

      andradar 6 years ago

      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 profile image

      MayaBella LM 6 years ago

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

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      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 profile image

      Violin-Student 6 years ago

      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 profile image

      KevCooper 6 years ago

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

    • cdcraftee profile image

      Christine Larsen 6 years ago from South Australia

      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 profile image

      chgreen 6 years ago

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

    • blujeanmomma profile image

      blujeanmomma 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains

      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.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Love anything vintage, especially the cute hanging elves.

    • profile image

      RobinDM 6 years ago

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

    • beckyf profile image

      beckyf 6 years ago

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

    • jdwheeler profile image

      jdwheeler 6 years ago

      Nice finds. Enjoyed the walk down memory lane.

    • profile image

      mincass 6 years ago

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

    • profile image

      TobyHeatonArmstrong 6 years ago

      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!

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 6 years ago

      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.