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Christmas is a time for praise, traditions and family. Decorating the Christmas tree is one of those traditions. In our house, everyone takes part in decorating the tree to varying degrees. The fun part is hanging the ornaments (my favorite) while the “work” part is getting the tree in place and putting the lights on. After the lights are good to go everyone is free to hang whatever ornaments they wish from our collection.
It goes without saying that I’m in charge of getting the lights on the tree. Some years are more frustrating than others depending on if there are any lights burned out. It’s always been that way and will remain so until I finally break down and buy a whole new set of LED lights or (another) pre-lit tree.
I bought a couple of pre-lit trees a couple of years ago, one for upstairs and one for downstairs, but the lights didn’t all work on one of them so back it went. I’m not particularly interested in returning brand new items. I expect them to work for a little while before it stops working. I’m funny that way.
Enough about all of that. I wanted to get into the tradition aspect of it. Specifically, vintage ornaments.
There’s nothing quite like vintage ornaments to put you in the mood for Christmas. They take you back to simpler times, memories of your childhood and/or memories of when your kids were little ones.
Vintage Ornaments Bring Back Memories
I recall one particular ornament that takes me back to my childhood. It’s a tree topper that my parents had on their tree for as long as I can remember. It was the coolest tree topper that we had ever seen then and probably still today. It was a simple light bulb with a round, multi-colored shade surrounding the bulb that was engineered in such a manner that the heat from the light bulb made the shade spin around like a disco ball. The effect in the room was mesmerizing, in our eyes, and plugging in the tree topper was the first order of business when we got home from school each day.
Update 12/18/2009: The Fun Times Guide To Home Building reader, JCool, read about my parents’ “disco” tree topper and wrote me to tell me that he had one. It is, indeed, the exact same tree topper as the one my parents had. He sent a couple of photos of his tree topper to share with everyone here (below). Thanks JCool!
12/19/2009: I found this particular tree topper online. It is a rare, vintage Bradford Celestial Light Tree Topper. I found one up for auction on eBay that has the origianl box and stand, with a starting bid of $325!!! I saw another Bradford Celestial Light Tree Topper up for bid currently standing at $128 without the box and stand. I also contacted my mom about it and she thinks we had it since the 60’s and probably paid $20 for it at Sears. It’s been awhile to try and remember when and where you bought a tree topper but I trust she has a fair recollection of it.
My aunt and uncle have an entire room decorated in a 50’s retro theme. To extend the theme into the holidays, they’ve gone to the trouble and expense of creating a vintage themed Christmas tree. Notice the OSU jersey in the photo (below) to show their pride in the Buckeye state. I’ve got a few photos from them that I’ve shared here. One of the coolest vintage ornaments are the bubble lights. Authentic bubble lights are not cheap. Imitations abound so take a couple of minutes to learn about bubble lights before you open your wallet.
Another notable ornament isn’t really an ornament. It is the string of lights with classic large bulbs rather than the miniatures. Not only do I prefer the look of large bulbs on the tree, I like the way they look when used to decorate the exterior of a home. We give high praise to those that seek out and decorate their homes and yards with large bulb string lights.
Shiny Brite is the Epitome of Vintage Christmas Ornaments
The most popular ornament in the United States in the 1940’s and 50’s were reflector ornaments. Shiny Brite was the major manufacturer of reflector bulbs and remain highly sought after to this day. Shiny Brite went out of business back in 1962, but you can purchase outstanding Shiny Brite replicas from Radko. Radko is a well known and respected manufacturer of replica Shiny Brite, but if you’re looking for authentic Shiny Brite ornaments you’d be well advised to read this article about how to tell the difference between authentic and knock-offs before you buy.
Did you know tha
t World War II had a huge effect on Christmas ornament production and design? Who knew? It’s interesting, though.
As you can imagine, there are many retailers selling vintage Christmas ornaments these days. Here are a few really good merchants with good selection and some unusual, but cool, ornaments:
- 32° North
- Christopher Radko
- Crate and Barrel
- Department 56
- Christmas by Krebs custom ornaments
- Christmas Decorations and Gift Store
- Vintage Treasures: talk about unusual blown glass ornaments…they’ve got Scottish bagpipe Santa, a variety of musical instruments, blown glass tree toppers and patriotic ornaments. Yes…there’s even a Republican elephant and a Democratic donkey for the reds and blues among us. Very cool place to shop.
- Unique Handmade Victorian ornaments by Dresden Star Ornaments Unique is the key work there.
A few years ago we bought 7/12 of the Patience Brewster Krinkles – Twelve Days of Christmas ornaments series based on her original artwork. They’re quirky, unusual looking and oddly appealing. We couldn’t afford the whole set of 12 at the time so we chose our seven favorite and vowed to complete the set in due time. I’m not providing a link because the set is retired…unfortunately. I have some photos of them below, though.
Pictured below are some of my favorites from our collection…vintage replicas and otherwise:
What are some of your favorite ornaments from your past? Let’s see ’em!
I started as a home-stalker… visiting brand new homes under construction in the neighborhoods near my house. That inspired me to write about home building and home renovation projects — chronicling homes during different phases of construction from a consumer's point-of-view. Basically, the tips you'll find in my articles are a collection of checklists for what I think should (and should not) go into building or remodeling a quality home.