How to have a vintage Christmas

21 December 2018

Festive traditions are all part of the joy of Christmas, whether they are customs inherited from the family or those that have culturally transported through the years.

However, Christmas conventions have evolved over time, and like everything, seasonal fashions come and go. If you’re wondering how to inject a little vintage Christmas into your home this year, we’ve put together some ideas to help you bring the past into the present this December.

A very vintage Christmas tree

Often the Christmas tree is the centre point of the home, and this has been the case for centuries. If decorating your evergreen is something you look forward to every year, you won’t be alone, and while tastes have certainly changed over the decades, that’s not to say you can’t bring back some retro decorative styles.

Presents haven’t always been the only thing to find under the tree, and if you’re hoping to bring a little vintage Christmas to your home this year, transport your living room back to a bygone era with a miniature landscape. Often known as a putz, these were popular in the early 1900s and 1920s, when they would typically depict scenes from the Bible or a Christmas village and would fit snugly under the tree branches. 

That’s not the only vintage Christmas idea you can adopt this year. Another popular tradition of the early to mid 20th Century was to have a toy train set circling underneath the tree, which dazzled children for hours. The Lionel Corporation produced these toy locomotives, which reaches their most popular in the 1950s.

If you’re looking for some vintage Christmas decorations for your tree, look back over the years to see how you can evoke a little nostalgia in your home. Harken back to the Victorian era when glass garlands first became popular, when they were draped around the tree to catch the light. A cheaper alternative was to make garlands from papier mache, or to hang lametta (a precursor to tinsel) from tree branches instead. Hanging lametta from your tree in front of a roaring fire will inevitably bring some magical vintage sparkle to your home.

You could also invest in some glass baubles or figurals, which first hung off branches in the early 20th Century and were used to reflect the candlelight on Christmas trees in the early 1900s. These were still going strong in the 1950s, when they came in bright colours to match the sparkly aluminum Christmas trees that were at the time in fashion. Investing in brightly saturated glass and synthetic baubles would bring a retro air to your home this festive season.

Authentic, home made decorations such as stringed popcorn, paper chains or cut out snowflakes brought the family together in the 1920s, while spray on snow became fashionable in the fifties. Such vintage Christmas decorations can easily be brought into the home even today.

Wooden ornaments were also popular, so keep a lookout for any mini vintage Christmas santas, rocking horses or toy wooden soldiers for your tree this year.

While Christmas tree lights have been around for many years, candles were once used to light up the tree instead. For a touch of vintage Christmas, invest in an antique or wooden Christmas candelabra to recall the days gone by.

Vintage Christmas inspiration for your well-loved antiques

If you have a passion for antiques, don’t forget to dress them this Christmas. A vintage wooden ladder looks fantastic when dressed with Christmas lights, while a renaissance style wrought iron jardiniere would look truly festive when filled with glistening baubles.

Take tips from your ancestors and dress your antique fireplace mantel with Victorian inspired red-dressed wreaths. Dress doorways and archways in a similar fashion, by adorning them with artificial poinsettia flowers and green garlands.

Other vintage Christmas traditions

Christmas stockings have to be one of the most well-loved festive traditions, and nowadays they’re often seen as purely decorative. In the early 20th Century, stockings would contain fruit and candy canes, and perhaps a small wooden toy. The image of stockings hanging over the fireplace will give your living room a vintage Christmas feel, although quite often they were hung at the end of the bed instead, as fireplaces were typically needed to provide warmth, heat and light.

Christmas Eve traditions have ranged from retelling ghost stories to singing carols both inside and out. If you have a box of old books in your attic, why not dig them out? A vintage copy of ‘A Christmas Carol’ will delight every child the night before Christmas and will evoke memories for its adult readers, too. If films are more popular in your household, the classic ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ is still very much loved, but will nevertheless bring a vintage Christmas feel to your home this December.