Saturday, December 8, 2007

A VINTAGE CHRISTMAS

THE QUINTESSENTIAL SANTA CLAUS
**********

I haven't been doing as many Christmas-related posts as I had planned, because it's been too cold in my little corner of the world. And by that I don't mean outside (although it is cold outside), but here in my computer corner in the living room. Frigid air is coming in around the window air conditioner, and my fingers are like icicles. This post will be mainly pictures, but that's okay, and hopefully Dan and I can run up to Menard's tomorrow and get some weather- proofing stuff for the window while we're out getting our Christmas tree.



Today I'm sharing some of my vintage Christmas items, which I have found at flea markets and antique shops (which in North Dakota are basically vintage shops), and in one instance, on eBay. I bought them because they bring back warm fuzzy memories of my childhood home and of my grandma's house.



To me, the quintessential Santa Claus is the Coca Cola Santa from the 50s. It's who I imagine when I picture Santa in my mind's eye. His beard, his hat, his suit, his black belt and even his old brown boots are just perfect. The Coca Cola Santa illustrations can be found in old magazines at flea markets.



I love glass-blown bird ornaments. They just plain make me happy. The reproductions today usually have big feathery tails but I prefer the older ones with the straight tails. I have found some that have lost their clips, but I just bring them home anyway (they're cheap) and tuck them in here and there in arrangements.


This lighted plastic music box church was always on display at Christmas at my grandma's house. I loved to sit and stare at it, and occasionally turn the key to play "Silent Night." I only knew it as the Miles Kimball church because it used to be offered in the Miles Kimball catalog. I always meant to order one for myself, but Miles Kimball stopped selling it. I was sure I could find one on eBay and I was right. I was surprised to learn that this is well known by its brand name, as the Raylite church.

Recognize these little choir boys, anyone? These are Gurley candles. When I was growing up, we had only the choir boys, the cute little angels and the evergreen trees. However, Gurley made many other kinds of Christmas candles and so I have added the Santas, snowmen, reindeer, elves, and so forth to my collection.


A cellophane wreath like this used to hang in my grandma's living room window. Its warm red glow meant, "Welcome, Welcome!" to me. Mine hangs in my kitchen window, where I leave it lit 24 hours a day. It is very fragile, as are all the cellophane wreaths that exist to this day, but that makes me love it even more.

Does anyone remember the little Christmas chimes? The heat from the candles makes the top spin and produces tinkling sounds. If you're looking for them in vintage shops, they come unassembled in little boxes and you have to try to remember every year how to put together all the pieces.


My family and Dan's family both had bubble lights on our Christmas trees. My grandma didn't have a tree when I was growing up but I was told that for many years Grandma's sister "Auntie Jenny" in Montana shipped the Munros fresh Christmas trees on the train. Wouldn't that have been fun?
Anyway, back to bubble lights. I loved them when I was little. I used to be mesmerized by the liquid that started bubbling after the bulb warmed up.
Dan and I have carried on the tradition of bubble lights, but I am getting sick and tired of them. I still think they are pretty, but they break or dry out or stop bubbling, and it is becoming nearly impossible to find replacement bulbs. I found some on the Internet last year, but they were out of stock and they were "not available until 2007". Did I remember to go back and order some in early 2007? Of course not. When did I think about ordering some? Yesterday. Am I too late? Of course.

I want to get rid of the bubble lights entirely and have all white lights, but Dan doesn't agree. We did have to do without them a couple of years ago, when we couldn't find the bubble lights (and no, I didn't hide them).

These vintage balls and bells are among my favorites, too. I have a small white tree decorated with these glass-blown ornaments, and I group the others in a bowl. Now this is really going to date me: My mom and us kids also made red and green construction paper chains, and strung cranberry and popcorn garlands for our trees.
I was asking Dan last night about the decorations he remembered, as his mom and dad had a lot of these same items. He remembers that his Auntie Gladys and Uncle Bill had angel hair on their Christmas tree, and that it was considered to be very expensive at the time. "Earl wouldn't have any of that," says Dan, referring to his frugal father.
Yesterday my co-workers and I had lunch together. We were talking about Christmas decorations and someone mentioned bubble lights. "What are bubble lights?", asked 20-something Stephanie. I realized then and there that the post I had planned to write about vintage Christmas would have to include me, as I, myself, am now considered to be vintage! (And Stephanie probably thinks of me as antique.)
I hope you enjoyed my trip down "Christmas Decoration Memory Lane". Those of you who are my age most certainly recognized all or most of these decorations. For you youngsters, I hope I introduced you to some cool stuff.
Oh, by the way, neither Dan's parents or my parents ever had an aluminum tree colored by rotating lights! That's way too retro for me.

22 comments:

Bimbimbie said...

I recognise many of the vintage glass baubles from my childhood too. The were always the ones I would look for when sitting gazing at the tree at night time. We had the little clip on birds. I bought some reproductions a couple of years ago just to remind me *!*

Kate said...

I had bubble lights as a child too. I love your birds and other ornaments. I think a tree with just birds would be really cool. They too remind me of my youth. I have no old ornaments. I wish I did. Thanks for sharing all of this.

Kate

Autumn said...

We had bubble lights when I was a kid too. K-mart here still sells them, so take a look in your area if you need some. I love all the other pretty things you talked about. I still decorated with a elf that was on the tree when I was a little girl. You just can't find the same things now that you did then.

kim said...

Those candles bring back memories!

judie said...

I loved looking at your ornaments. I remember those choir boy candles, and I remember having glass blown birds with those kind of tails. We also had some glass ornaments with some kind of wire wrapped around the outside and bubble lights. I don't know what happened to all of these things. Sad.

lila said...

We had the choir boy candles, no bubble lights...ours were older, big round bulbs...then just the large colored flame shaped. I used to want angel hair...it sounded so glaourous and special.
I really like the little church you have which plays Silent Night!

Naturegirl said...

Yes I do recognize several of your decorations! That wreath...I remeber those!! I never did like bubble lights. The Santa poster I remember..the children peeking is so sweet...brings back fond memories of Christmas past. Oh those ornaments are beautiful!! I see them in a large jar!! Thank you for sharing..hugs NG

Casey said...

I love bubble lights. I've got some for different seasons and change them out periodically.

PEA said...

Oh Julie, I just love all your vintage ornaments, how beautiful they are! My mom never put angel hair in our tree but I remember one of our neighbours had it and how fascinated I was with it:-) Do you know they sell the bubble lights again? I see them all over the stores right now. They're made exactly like they used to way back when. xox

miss*R said...

I love vintage christmas decorations too, especially the birds. I have a small collection of the baubles that I keep in a vintage glass jar. Your collection is wonderful.
your poor old fingers.. I was going to suggest fingerless gloves, but I guess they wouldn't work keeping the fingers warm

Janet said...

I'm vintage, too because I remember many of those same items. We never had bubble lights though....just the big colored bulbs. I always wanted the bubble ones when I was a kid but for some reason mom wouldn't do them. And no aluminum trees for us either!

Rhondi said...

I remember those little choir boy candles and the angel chimes. I always loved the way they tinkled when the heat turned them around. We never has the bubble lights but they always fascinated me when I would see them at other people
s houses. Thanks for the memories.

Gemma said...

I remember laying under the tree and watching bubble lights when I was a kid. Yes.I've also seen the chimes that move with the heat of the candles....so unique! Fortunately I have some antique ornaments that have been passed down in the family.
They're my favorites.

Rowan said...

What a lovely and interesting collection you have, I really like the little blue bird. All the decorations from my childhood are gone - got rid of in a house move after my dad died. Wish I'd had chance to rescue some of them.

KJ said...

Hi Julie!

I am sure enjoying your Christmas reflections! And, it's ok to not try the napkin fold. I won't lose any sleep! You are so funny!

Your CD was mailed on Friday, I believe. So, it should be in your little mitten covered hands soon!

Tootles,
KJ

Sheila said...

I loved your vintage decorations Julie.
My Mum had tiny red Chinese paper lanterns that would be put over the lights, and that made them glow. We also had those glass birds. I found some a few years back with feather tails, and had to buy them.
My husband once worked for a German man, and we were invited to their home, I was expecting our first baby at the time, and she was due in a month. I remember two things about this party, one was the smoked eel, that I couldn't get enough of, (surprising as I had 'morning' sickness 24/7 for almost 9 months and it didn't make me ill,) and their tree. They had real candles on it. And they lit them..!
It was a real tree, and I kept eyeing the door thinking it would catch on fire any minute and we would have to make a dash for it. It didn't catch fire, and they said it was traditional in Germany and they had always done it. As lovely as it looked I would never try it for myself..!

Mrs. Staggs said...

I so enjoy seeing your Christmas things Julie. They're all so pretty. Vintage things are my favorites, as you've probably figured out, and yes, I do have a small collection of the postcards that asked about.
All of your glass ornaments remind me of my mother's beautiful Christmas tree. We lived in Germany when I was a young girl. My dad was stationed there in the Army. My mom collected some of her prettiest ornaments while there. My sister has them now, so seeing her tree is a bit like having my mom with us again, at Christmas time.
If you'd ever like to replace the clips on your birds, I think the are available at D. Blumchen and Co. They have a website. I think it's simply their name with .com added to the end.
Happy Christmas to you!

Carmen said...

I have one of those glass blown birds in my workstation, too, LOL
It is on top of my computer.
Mine is lime green with white feathers.

Mary said...

I loved the trip down memory lane Julie, such wonderful ornaments and stories associated with them. Knowing your Grandma was important in your life warms my heart. Grandmas are so special.

Off to bed and a few more chapters of Marlena De Blasi's fabulous 'A Thousand Days in Tuscany'. I only had ten days there but every detail of that wonderful place is in my mind's eye every day. I was so impressed and am still so in love with it all.

Hate to tell you but it's so HOT here, tomorrow will be 80 degrees, ridiculous for Dec. Anyway sending you warm hugs and hoping the weather stripping has helped with the draft and your fingers are warming up!
Hugs - Mary.

Lady Laurie said...

Wonderful decorations! We always had the little choir boys and angel candles. I recently saw them in a catalog and was suprised that there were other types as well. Brings back happy memories.

Tom said...

I still have my parents and grandparents' glass ornaments. Is there a market for them? We are downsizing and need to find them a good home.

Anonymous said...

Hello there! I saw this blog, researching something for my own. You have beautiful collection of vintage decorations. I have a question-these ball decorations, in pink, green, etc.... where did you get them? I had some of them when I was a kid, they were beautiful! Among them there were two, basically the same although one was dark, night blue, while the other was light pink. They had one pattern, a picture of little house in the wood, under the snow. Both looked like a fairy tale, especially the blue one. AS much as I remember, they were made in former Czekoslovakia, now probably Czeck Republic. UNfortunately, both of them broke. Now I am trying to find something, some clue, because I want to find a factory where they were manufactured, hoping they have some museum or collection. Yes, if so, I'd like to buy them. So, can You help me? IT may sound childish, but it is important to me, because that was big collection, bought by my grandparents, my parents, but in some very difficult years, we lost them. So, finding them would be kind of reviving best years of life. Thanks, Milena.