15 Nostalgic Holiday Decorations That Will Bring Back Christmas Memories
Many holiday decorations and traditions are handed down from generation to generation, but with every passing year, some may fall by the wayside. These holiday decor elements have a deep history (some go back hundreds of years) and make a case for sticking to the classics — with a few twists.
Aluminum Christmas trees were popular in 1958 until about the mid-1960s, and even make guest appearances in the 1965 classic, A Charlie Brown Christmas. Lucy covets a pink Evergleam model in particular; an original can fetch as much as $1,800 today. Occasionally a rotating color wheel below the tree would shift the hue for a psychedelic effect, but modern versions are shiny enough to skip any motorized bells and whistles.
Felting is older than spinning and weaving in many cultures. It’s the very definition of warm and fuzzy, so it’s a natural fit during the holidays. In Scandinavian cultures felt is often used to craft tomte or nisse, a traditional gnome ornament in a red hat, depicted on this garland.
Candy colors were the hallmark of Shiny Brites, the huge U.S. brand that rose to prominence in the ’40s and ’50s. In some cases, age has gently faded the hand-decorated finish of vintage ornaments to give them a soft patina, but they remain collector’s items. No box of heirloom ornaments to be found in the attic? Try scouring eBay, Etsy, church rummage sales or antique malls.
Many remember making paper chain garlands as schoolchildren, so just consider this poinsettia version a grown-up take. The bonus of making a DIY project is that you can tailor the color scheme of the project to your palette. Click here for an array of DIY paper garland projects, including the one pictured, which is embellished with beads and lights.
Also known as ‘putz houses,’ these sparkly cardboard houses had their golden age from 1928 to 1937 when they were sold in dime stores like Woolworth’s. The houses, often made from candy boxes, were traditionally used to create Christmas villages around nativity scenes. Today’s varieties can be found in big box retailers, and they are perfect lined on the mantel, or placed on a table in a vignette.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert dressed the first Christmas tree at Windsor Castle with dried fruits in 1841. Citrus slices, popcorn and cranberry garlands are a nostalgic accent for a tree or mantel. During the holiday rush, spending an afternoon stringing them is a low-key way to bond with friends and family.
Learn how to make DIY Dried Orange Holiday Garland & Ornaments.
Holiday revelers tried everything from flour, cotton, and cornstarch to get a “white Christmas” look for their trees. Tree flocking really caught on in the late 1950s and 1960s when General Mills marketed Sno-Flok home kits that were applied using a nozzle attached to a vacuum cleaner. Today it’s easy to get that frost-tipped look with a can of snow spray.
Gerhard Lang is widely credited for popularizing the idea of inserting holiday poems behind little cardboard doors around 1904, and even pioneered a Braille version. The chocolate advent calendar is a newer invention, dating back to 1958. But for those who want a more modern take, try this DIY version, which can be filled with personalized treats that don’t fit neatly behind doors.
The post-war boom brought a fascination with space age marvels like tinsel, and artificial, lunar-white trees started making their debut at that time as well. White trees have a mod, Pierre Cardin vibe that’s too fun not to bring back. Plus, ornaments really pop against the white branches.
Paper cones have a Victorian flair that descended from a German tradition. A Schultüte is a large cone-shaped container made of paper, cardboard or plastic, and filled with toys, chocolate and other treats to be given to children on their first day of school. Fill cones with candy and keep them on a tray by the front door to give as a holiday party favor to guests as they leave.
Learn how to make DIY: Paper Party Cone Favors.
Like many treasured holiday traditions, gingerbread houses originated in Germany and gained popularity thanks to the story of Hansel and Gretel. A gingerbread house kit is just as much fun to assemble as a house from scratch, but homemade doesn’t have to mean complicated. Try this easy 2-D take.
H&H Style Director Emma Reddington made these kid-friendly DIY snow globes as winter party favors for her son’s birthday. Take a page from her book and use heavy-duty epoxy glue to adhere the figurines to the lids, and then let kids fill their jars with glitter, water and glycerin as a holiday party activity.
In 1918, the Sears catalog offered a tabletop artificial tree with a candle cup on each branch tip for 98 cents. Flocked bottle brush trees are the perfect size to add to a table or mantel vignette and have a sweet nostalgic vibe, especially when dressed with tiny ornaments.
In the digital era, old school cards are on the decline. In this Victorian farmhouse, these cards are sentimental favorites that have been culled over time and make a pretty display year after year — you can’t do that with email or texts.
The olfactory senses are strongly linked to memory, and for many, the scent of clementines is associated with the holidays. Create a festive mood using pomanders (which go way back to the mid-thirteenth century). Made from citrus fruits studded with cloves in decorative patterns, holiday pomanders add a pop of fresh color, and the scent they emit acts as a natural air freshener.