5 Tips for Decorating an Old-Fashioned Christmas Tree
The True Meaning of Christmas (Trees)
According to the National Christmas Tree Association, there are an average of 30 million real and 20 million artificial trees sold in the United States every year. Once purchased, each of these trees will undergo a transformation based on countless customs and traditions. And whether you prefer the smell of pine and sap, or the convenience of synthetic needles and built-in lights, your Christmas tree provides a special opportunity for celebration and togetherness with family and friends. So before you get to rocking around the Christmas tree, consider inviting the seniors in your life to share in the social experience and greatly impact their mental and physical health in the process!
One of the best parts of the tree decorating tradition is the opportunity to reminisce about past holidays and to share stories with family and friends. When a grandparent or other senior family member is part of the mix, younger generations can learn how their elders celebrated Christmas and their favorite styles or customs. A great way to jumpstart these conversations is to make the past come alive, so why not deck your Christmas tree with a vintage flair?
Build: Tree Styles
Affected greatly by the war effort of WWII, the style for Christmas trees in the 40s was quite different than it is today. Real trees were cut from natural habitats, and were characterized by thin branches with large spaces between them. Some would describe the style as a "Charlie Brown Christmas Tree." Finding a real tree to match this vintage trend may prove difficult, but there are plenty of retailers that sell artificial versions. Trees in the 50s started coming from official tree farms, and were bigger, fuller, and more uniform. It wasn't until the late 50s (well after the war effort had concluded), that aluminum trees grew in popularity. Your best bet for finding your favorite vintage tree is to do an online shopping search for "40s/50s vintage tree."
One of the most popular types of Christmas tree lights in the 40s and 50s were socket-based C6- to C9-sized glass bulbs with replaceable fuses. If a bulb was broken or lost, individual glass bulbs were sold as replacements. While you can find authentic glass bulbs on auction and vintage seller websites, many retailers carry incandescent and LED versions that are safer and more lightweight.
Bubble lights were also popular throughout the 40s and 50s. The originals were liquid-filled vials connected to an incandescent light bulb that warmed the liquid and gave it a bubbling appearance. Like other vintage lights, authentic bubble lights can be bought from auction or vintage sellers and are relatively safe, but because they were made with methylene chloride (a toxic and potentially carcinogenic liquid), your best bet is to look for updated replica versions made with LEDs and acrylic bases.
A staple of any vintage tree from yesteryear is tinsel icicles or garland. Silver icicles were popular, and consisted of long strands of tinsel that were hung vertically on the tree's branches to resemble ice or falling snow. Tinsel garland, often in gold or silver and draped loosely over the branches, was fashionable in the 50s and continues to be today. Both icicle tinsel and garland can be easily found at most retailers or online.
Also a staple on most trees from the 40s through the 60s were indented bauble ornaments, shapes with one concave side filled with texture and color (often called Shiny Brites after a manufacturer of the same name), meant to reflect the glow of the Christmas lights. Glass ball ornaments in varying colors could also be found among glass santas, snowmen, and angels, as well as homemade ornaments made from paper, yarn, pinecones, and more. A resurgence of popularity in recent years has made finding replicas of these ornament types relatively easy, though as aforementioned, auction sites and vintage enthusiasts will also have them for sale.
When it comes to vintage tree toppers, there are plenty of options to fit any taste! Chose from angels, stars, bauble reflectors, santas, birds, and more! Some toppers were even illuminated to add an extra dazzle to your tree's finishing touch. As with retro ornaments, toppers have made a comeback and can be found in their original form or as replicas.
Ask just about any grandparent that lived in the 40s and 50s, and they'll reminisce about watching the electric trains rolling over their tracks in the department store window and dreaming of seeing the cars under their tree on Christmas morning. Electric train sets are still available and well-loved, and can be purchased at hobby stores nationwide for varying prices. Original engines and cars can be purchased from multiple online sources, but may cost more than current models. Adding a train under your tree creates a fun and interactive activity for your display that will delight adults and kids alike!
However you decide to decorate your tree for National Christmas Tree Day, be sure to fill the activity even with plenty of fun, laughter, story-telling, and memory-making with every generation of your family. Happy holidays!
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