Medieval Germans began to decorate evergreen trees with apples and called them “Paradise” trees, after the Garden of Eden. Historians suspect that some families began to leave their paradise trees up through Christmas and eventually (sometime in the 17th century) Germans adopted them as part of their Christmas celebration.
More Christmas History
In 1848, Queen Victoria encouraged her German husband, Albert, to decorate a tree as he had in Germany, and the tradition caught on in both England and America. Decorated with sweets, glass ornaments, and candles, the trees became widely popular.
By 1870, Germany exported huge numbers of glass ornaments, manufactured via a “cottage industry,” made up of individuals and families who fashioned the ornaments in their own homes.
After the World Wars, America and Japan joined the fray and began producing their own decorations, based on the beloved German ones. It is these that I’ll be talking about in this post–vintage Christmas ornaments of the 1950s.
Bottle Brush Decorations
The English, in particular, took to them since they had a shortage of evergreens after the war. We are currently experiencing quite a revival in interest in the smaller trees, along with full-sized and smaller wreaths. These two small flocked and decorated wreaths shown above sold last Christmas for $4.99 each.
The most desirable bottle brush decorations have small glass beads attached, along with other decorations, like the brush wreaths–one with bells, the other with a spun cotton snowman. This brush tree sits on a glittery wooden base stamped “Japan,” holds four pretty pink presents, and displays gold garland, glass ornaments, and crushed glass type of “flocking.” I plan to list it for $26.99 during the Christmas season.
The Santa Claus figure seems to be an amalgamation of a number of different myths from around the world, including St. Nicholas (Greek), Sinterklaas (Dutch), Father Christmas (England), and a variety of others.
This cute little chenille Santa also carries a small tree and has a paper mache face. I plan to price him at $3.99 next season. My guess is that he was made in America.
I suspect that these spun cotton and pipe cleaner guys were either part of a larger decoration or perhaps inserts for floral arrangements (please inform me otherwise if you’ve got better info).
Germans, and later on the Japanese, created spun (or pressed) cotton ornaments by pressing cotton into molds to create various shapes like heads, animals, and fruit. These examples are likely Japanese, and I sold them as a set in my Etsy shop for $4.99.
National Geographic published Coca Cola ads on the back of their magazines for years, and December’s often featured Santa, like this one from 1957. He’s looking very jolly.
Look for the “Shiny Brite” name or “Made in U.S.A.” on the metal cap. The most unique and unusual garner the highest prices, of course. These less common, glitter-decorated Shiny Brites in their original box will sell for $15-20.
I sold this sweet little box, with 49¢ written on the side, for $4.99. The bulbs have a fair amount of crazing, not unexpected in bulbs over 60 years old. They would look lovely gracing a feather tree or some other small Christmas tree.
Another area of Christmas collectible is candy containers. Often there is nothing about the piece that indicates it held candy because it looks like a stand-alone decoration, like this boot. But there would have been a piece of card board glued or tucked into the top to hold some special treat inside the boot. This is the first one I’ve ever owned that has the ribbon and the paper around the top still attached. Many fine examples of older containers were made in Germany, this newer one was made in the USA. They retail for about $4.
Scads of plastic deer, Santas, elves, trees, and other decorations came out of the 1950s. They can usually be found at garage sales for next to nothing.
This white flocked doe and fawn often find a place of honor in among my ironstone collection.
I almost forgot to include this little guy. Part of a giveaway from Melissa’s Antiques, I think he’s more like 1960s, but I didn’t want to leave him out. He’s too cute.
These hot pink glass beads are likely made in Japan. Sellers on eBay and Etsy call them “mercury” glass beads, but I’m not sure why.
Mercury glass results from the silvering of double-walled, free-blown glass. The coloration is achieved from the inside of glass and, as you can see in the photo, the pink coloration is wearing off the outside of these beads. They nevertheless have a great vintage look; I sell them for $10-12.00/garland.
Manufacturers produced myriads of Christmas-related items like this little tin of glitter. I love the lettering and the graphics. This diamond dust could be used as faux snow or could be applied to the roof of a card board house or hillside. It sold last year for $5.99. Other items would include paper decorations, table decorations, tree skirts, gift wrapping items, and the list goes on(!).
Elf on a Shelf
Do you have a favorite vintage Christmas decoration?I couldn’t finish this post without a nod to the ubiquitous shelf elf(!). Isn’t he a cutie?
Thanks so much for stopping by–