One of the things I like best about Christmas is the opportunity to get out the family photo albums and show my kids what our Christmas celebrations looked like 30, 40, and 50 years ago. The kids always marvel at the apparent simplicity of everything, especially the seemingly paltry number of presents that we exchanged.
But to any kid, no matter how young or old, and no matter what era you grew up in, nothing was more magical than Christmas — the family get-together with all the great food, decorating the tree, caroling around the piano, and finally opening the presents, regardless of how many there were.
(Christmas dinner 1957. Mom is in the center wearing gray, her sister and her husband are to the right, and Grandma and Pawpaw are to the left. Dad took the picture. I wouldn’t make the scene for another decade.)
When my mother was a little girl growing up during the 1930′s (my parents were older when they adopted me) there was very little of anything, and one year there was no money for presents, save for one item for my mother and her sister, from Santa Claus. My mother’s aunt, who had no children of her own, bought Mom and her sister a doll that came with a cardboard steamer trunk that held the doll and its clothes. The dolls didn’t arrive until after Christmas, but they were the best present that my Mom ever got, because they were a complete surprise for the girls. I still have that doll, the trunk, and the clothes. Mom never got rid of them.
This MySpace page features a great gallery of retro Christmas photos from the 50′s, 60′s and 70′s. Remember those gawdy decorations they used to hang from light poles downtown? Ugh. And be sure to check out the Antique Christmas Lights Museum.
Of course not everything about Christmas celebrations of yore was entirely harmless. Check out this gallery of photos on Flickr featuring decorative “snow” made from chrysotile asbestos!
And what would a remembrance of Christmases Past be without some retro Christmas music?
- Antique Christmas Lights’ collection of Christmas music from a century ago, taken from Edison cylinders
- My website, The Virtual Victrola, has a number of interesting Big Band-era Christmas performances, including two hour-long shows of vintage Christmas music.
Finally, here in Oklahoma City the anniversary sale jingle for B. C. Clark jewelers is as much of a Christmas tradition as just about anything else. The original jingle has been on the air every Christmas season since it first aired in 1956.
If you have found a great retro or vintage Christmas website, please feel free to share a link in the comments.