New has never really appealed to me.
I have friend that actually believes that she should always be the first person to live in a house. Or own a car. Or a leather jacket.
Where’s the fun in that? Old things have patina, history, charm, and a character that’s all their own.
“New” doesn’t have any of those things…..not by a mile.
Vintage Christmas decorations have something even more special because they were a part of someone’s holiday celebrations for decades. Each and every item was lovingly wrapped in tissue, boxed, and stored in an attic/drawer/garage until that special moment for a few weeks out of every year when it could shine. Usually these pieces were even passed down through generations.
It’s this history that’s sadly missing from the decorative assortment at your local Pottery Barn. etc.
It’s been a non-stop avalanche of accumulating old Christmas decorations for the past 30 years. These things come from garage sales, trash piles, eBay, thrift stores, and gifts from friends. (In fact, most everyone I know is aware of my obsessive tendencies, and has, at some point, contributed to it. “These used to be my grandmother’s,” hands me a shopping bag full of old glass goodies,” No one in my family wanted them, but I knew that you would.”)
Here’s a few of the random far-from-valuable vintage Christmas things I’ve accumulated over the decades.
I know that I’ve already told the story of the first Zip-loc of old Polish glass balls that I scored at a local thrift store. (I passed them up, and returned a full week later to find they were still there. Kismet. They were meant for me to have.) But have I ever mentioned the stockpile I found in a dumpster soon after that? Well, I did. About a hundred weathered, beautiful glass balls that someone in my apartment complex had grown tired of. Can you imagine? These things just seem to find their way to me. Mostly Polish, from companies like Fantasia Glass but there’s quite a few American Shiny Brites too. I have more old glass ornaments than I care to count now…..or could possibly display.
And I still cherish every one.
There’s no denying the complete charm of these vintage lights. My star, which made it to the top of the tree this year was made by the Noma company probably in the 1950’s. My Santa is also from the 1950’s and was manufactured by the Glolite company. He works equally as well as a topper, wall hanger, or just resting on a table top. I got him from another member of my Christmas Support Group. It’s kind of like a 12 step support group, except instead of saying, “Take it one day at a time,” they say things like, “What do you mean you only have a 5 war-time Shiny Brites? I have 5 dozen……in the original boxes.” So I end up with 6 different tree toppers, and only one tree that requires a topper.
Wooden Polish Dolls;
Ok, technically these aren’t really Christmas décor and I think they were mostly made for tourists, but as a little boy I remember my Mother buying two of them at a hobby shop in Indiana. (Our family is Polish and they reminded her of her childhood Christmases.) They lived on our family Christmas tree for every year that I can remember until my mother passed them to me a while back. I usually stick them in a stocking so I can see them quickly from the sofa.
Those first two were my Mother’s, the other three I have rescued from junk shops over the years. It just feels like they should be together.
This passion is mostly Jamie’s. Although, to be honest, they warmly remind me of Christmases at my grandparents who had a row plastic soldiers standing guard over their front porch every December. One year, my family flew from Atlanta to Toledo to spend Christmas day at their farm. I was more than a little distraught to learn that Santa couldn’t locate us that far away from Atlanta….but it more than made up for it when we returned home to find that he had visited while we were in Ohio. (My parents did quite a toddler juggling act to make that happen) And I think of that particular Christmas every time I see a front yard full of blow mold décor.
Children’s Christmas Books;
No, I don’t have any kids. Not that I’m aware of anyway. (Wink, Wink, Nudge, Nudge) But I still love to dig through thrift store bookshelves looking for these. Especially for only 50 cents each. I can’t imagine how anyone could ever part with a copy of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, but I find them all the time and I’m more than happy to pass the story of the Grinch along to any of the young children in my life……..Or stash one away for myself.
I’ve been charmed by these little houses all my life. I can’t imagine what the Japanese factory workers must have thought of Americans while crafting these tiny houses for our five & dime stores. Dusted with mica powder snow and with cellophane windows that glowed when a light bulb was inserted, they were meant to create a “snow village” under the Christmas tree. But honestly, to me they look even better just tucked into the branches.
Milk Glass Figural Bulbs;
If you’ve never seen these – and I hadn’t until just a few years ago – you have been missing out. In the 1930’s, when electric lights found their way onto American Christmas trees, these kinds of bulbs were all the rage. Usually sold in themed character sets; like Disney, popular cartoons, or nursery rhymes. They all but vanished in the mid-1950’s, probably something to do with the trend for a more “modern” look. Because most of them fit a now un-standard C-6 socket, they were tossed decades ago. It’s a bit of a treasure hunt to find them now, but when I do, – usually for just a few bucks each – most of them……still light up. (I just found that fat snowman today.)
None of these things are what I would consider pedigreed “antiques”…and far from it.
It’s mostly just junk.
But junk with an undeniable Christmas soul………
Simply amazing stories and collection! Thank you for sharing! Merry Christmas and all the best in 2018! MM.
Merry Christmas back at you Michael!!! Glad that you enjoyed.
Love…Love…Love your collections of Christmas decor. I am a sentimental fool, and when it comes to these things…the older the better, the history and sentiments touch my soul!. Merry Christmas. I
Well, of course. If I can justify my hoard with sentiment…..it makes it all that much more special.
What a wonderful post. The nostalgia and your love for these amazing Christmas treasures really warmed my heart. Looking at some of the ornaments actually a gave me a time trip back to my childhood. Love your enjoyment and obsessive enthusiasm. Thank you so much.
So glad that I could jolt your memory a little …….don’t we all want those Christmases of our childhoods?
I have most of my parents ornaments, circa 1940’s and some that my dad brought back from Germany after the war. I don’t use them every year, but sometimes I just go for a vintage tree! My favorite are these old silver pine cone shaped ornaments…..those I really love and they are usually on display in bowls!! Not sure what happens to all this cool stuff after we are gone. But for now…they are treasured!
I hear you. I have a LOT of “treasures” to leave someone. And I know they will cherish everything the same way that I do…..
I have to say that out of all the blogs I had read this season yours touched my heart! Thank you . As a child of the 50s I remember the shiny brite ornaments on the tree and have a collection of my own now. I have a plastic snowman with a pipe in his mouth that my mother bought me at Woolworths one Christmas that I still love. I think he had small suckers in his back. A walk down memory lane. Have a wonderful Christmas.
So very glad that you enjoyed this!!! But now, I’m obsessing about finding a plastic snowman with a pipe. LOL. I did most of my Christmas shopping at Woolworth’s when I was a little kid too. I used to get my mother “jewel encrusted” Christmas brooches. She gave me back one a few years ago…..it’s now a family heirloom.
I love anything Christmas!! The older the better!! I do have my grandparent’s things but there wasn’t a whole lot left at the end. My grandmother went thru the wanting “new” stage but luckily she saved the old. You have a huge treasure trove!! I’d have a hard time putting those things away every year!! And where in the world do you store everything?!?
I’m an extremely organized hoarder. I have several hiding places. There are shelves over the garage door with a dozen tubs…and the banquet in the kitchen is completely hollow. Also, the attic is pretty stuffed. Maybe someday I’ll stop accumulating……..HA!!!! No I won’t.
All wonderful! Thank you for sharing! Merry Christmas, you two!!
Merry Christmas back at you Vickie!!!!!
Hi! I’m Nancy Owens’ mom. She says she went to school with you. I see we share a great interest in vintage Christmas ornaments. My folks had Shiny Brite for years and then I asked for them. I think they may have had them before I was born. Those are at least 70 yrs. old, maybe older. I also collected the wartime non-silvered ornaments with paper caps and hanging tab. I love all of them and they were more meaningful than any plastic Hallmark piece or even Christopher Radko baubles.
Enjoyed your blog! Lorrie Slaughter
Hi Nancy’s mom!!! Yup, we went to Marcus and Tech together. So glad that you able to hold on to your parent’s ornaments. Years ago, I was showing my mother some old Polish balls I scored and she said that my grandparent’s tree was covered in them……when they upgraded to a 70’s modern theme….no one in the family wanted those old things, and they were tossed. So sad. Lucky you still having a part of those old family traditions. Merry Christmas
I loved your story. BEAUTIFUL ORNAMENTS! Reminded me of the Christmases of my past. I had a lighted Santa similar to yours. I wish i still had those old decorations and my mom, my sister and my dad. There was nothing better than those vintage memories. My house is filled with vintage also. Its not junk, its what puts a smile on my face. Thanks for sharing. Merry Christmas James and Jamie.
Merry Christmas back at you JAcqueline!!!! And yes, smile on my face every time I open a box from the attic. I like having other people’s holiday memories now mix with my own.
I always enjoy your stories. Thanks for sharing. I too love the old Christmas decorations and thet remind me of my childhood as well.
Awwwww thanks Annmarie. I have a hard time parting with any old Christmas items.
I LOVE your ornaments. Truly gorgeous & so artistic. I remember so many of these as a little girl from going to the “dime store” in our small Midwestern town. A few weeks ago I found a Santa mug probably from the 60’s & have it on display. A reason now to hunt down old Santa mugs. Your home is lovely & filled with such charm and soul. Merry Christmas to you both & I know there will be doggy treat presents for your fur baby.
What a fine collection you have! Those Putz houses are so charming. Lots of sweet memories for some of us older folks. Merry Christmas to y’all!
Thanks Nikki!!! Still haven’t found a place for all my houses…there’s a “forest” of bottle brush trees too…..maybe a small tree just of putz houses is in my future. Merry Christmas back at ya!!!
Well, ok, I know you know how I feel about this, right? But now that I’ve finally sat down to read the whole thing I was delighted to see your Polish dolls!! While I have not really collected them, I know I have a couple from childhood (they are most likely lurking in the kneewall cupboard in my room in my childhood home – hopefully the mice have not stolen their clothes…yet) but I have always thought they are so charming. Oh, geez….next thing I know I’lll be hoarding them, too. Geesh. xoxo and Merry Christmas!
Merry Christmas to you too Cackie! I hesitated to add the dolls, they aren’t really “Christmas”…….but they’re Christmas for me.
This post is just fantastic, thanks for sharing! My parents still have some antique European glass ornaments that they had before I was born (and I’m a baby boomer)! I love seeing them on their tree every year and hope to inherit them so they can continue to be cherished. Oh! I also have that half-flat Santa (glolite)– looks like yours but I am pretty sure mine is flocked, not shiny. I found it a few years ago at a thrift store! One man’s trash….
Anyway, Merry Christmas to you guys and Harley from the frozen north!
Really enjoy your blog and style. De-lurking to ask, how do you light up the C6 bulbs since they’re not standard?
Hi Luke, i bought a few vintage strands on EBay and at antique malls. There’s a dude in my vintage Christmas lighting collectors group that test rings them……I’ll probably have him restring them for me next year.