The video above is a snip from a home movie my mother took in December 1959. It doesn’t only show contemporary cards and trims from the period; it also features some excellent pieces now considered antiques.
Some of the older things were passed along, I believe, by my paternal grandmother, Grandma Mary, and they appear to be beautiful old German things. I wish we still had that feathery angel tree topper, and I’d kill for just one of those glittery sheep in the manger. (They now go for $40 or more in antique malls). Newer pieces are the wreaths in the windows: foam circles with metallic green “fir” and an electric cardboard candle in the center.
It’s not easy to see, but one of the newer things on the tree is a cottony green tree that was made to fit over a colored light. I remember there was also a ball, maybe a star, but I’m not sure about the other shapes. They felt like what I recognize now as quilt batting, and the effect was so-so.
The bubble light in the video was probably the only one actually working on the tree. Early bubble lights so often didn’t do anything but sit there and shine, not like the dependable ones produced today that bubble on command.
Mom got some close-ups of Christmas cards we’d received that year, and it shows how important card-sending was in the late ’50s. I loved to help pin the cards to the ribbons Mom hung on either side of the living room door, a tradition that continued when we moved to Oakley the next year.
Decorations that appear in the last part of the video were taken downstairs in our Eastern Avenue home. We rented a one-bedroom upstairs flat from my maternal grandparents, who lived downstairs. Grandma Martha also had her share of old ornaments. I loved that glass swan swimming in a cottony light blue cloud, as well as the fruit and the ice cream cone. She also had some genuine tin swirled icicles spotted with rust and tied with Grandma’s all-purpose black thread.
The housetop decoration with Santa is actually the upper portion of the old player piano that lived in Grandma’s front parlor. Mom crocheted the outfits for the dolls. I adored the cardboard faux red brick fireplace. I longed for a fireplace and mantel; with my vivid imagination, I was able to accept the cardboard and crepe paper “fire” as real. (More about that mantel in this post.)
The amazing thing is that some of these treasures still exist. I don’t know what happened to the Santa in the crocheted suit, but I have the girl dolls in their white and red dresses. (Granted, they’ve seen better days.) The swan ornament and cottony light covers are long gone, but I still have the ice cream cone and one or two of the smaller ornaments. Diamondqueen has the sleigh and reindeer from the housetop setting; Grandma Martha continued to hang that sleigh so it would appear to be flying for many years to come.
Just seeing those decorations in the video transports me back to those holidays in a vivid way. And when I hold one of those beauties, I feel as if I’m clutching the wand of some Yuletide time machine that can whisk me back to the past.