It’s the holiday season, my friends, less the snow. Your holiday preparations are likely in full swing, and you’ve probably bought presents, put up ye old Christmas tree, and maybe even done some holiday baking.
I have a confession to make. We only have two bins of Christmas decorations and most of it’s 50-plus years old. Here’s why.
It’s true, they don’t make stuff like they used to.
Frequently, vintage holiday decorations are made in Germany, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, and the US. There’s a finer quality evident in their making that the cute ornaments from Target, while undeniably adorable, lack.
They’re one of a kind .
Given that you can’t run to the next big-box store and grab the last box of handblown, colorful Austrian glass ornaments, chances are good that you’ll have a tree unlike anyone else’s tree. That’s kinda fun.
Vintage decorations are timeless .
Look, these decorations have survived multiple generations (and many, many pudgy fingers putting them on the tree) and thus, in my opinion, have proven themselves worthy of hanging from boughs year after year. Said decorations might even survive your own family’s pudgy fingers.
It’s a nod to Christmases of old.
Some of my favorite decorations to put up are vintage holiday postcards; I collected and curated a bunch from a local antique store and turned them into tree ornaments. I love putting them on the tree as most of the postcards are used, dated, and tell stories from folks who celebrated the holidays so long ago.
Like all thrifting and reusing, it’s good for the environment.
You keep things out of landfill, and avoid contributing to the overconsumption of cheaply made, consumable holiday decorations.
Okay, okay, Rachel, you’ve convinced me. Where do I find these magical vintage decorations?
It’s easier than you think! Every time I stop at a summer rummage sale, I look for interesting Christmas decorations.
The local thrift shop – the less organized, the better, in my opinion – can be a treasure trove of interesting finds as well, especially when the holiday season commences.
Estate sales can also be an excellent place to find vintage Christmas items, and typically, if you can put off purchasing said items for a day and come back the last day of the sale, you’re usually rewarded with 50% off the original price.
Ebay and other online auction sites can be helpful if you’re looking for a specific item and haven’t found it locally. You’ll likely pay more, but if you want a particular color, style, or item, eBay is a good option.
Local antique stores can be fun too. I’ve turned both my kids into burgeoning vintage junkies and one of our favorite holiday pastimes is perusing a local antique store to find a new-to-them glass Christmas bulb. It’s something we’ve done for a long time and amazingly, neither child has broken anything.
What should I buy and how much should I pay?
Well, I always tell people to buy what they like. For me that means a lot of Shiny Brite glass bulbs in a 3 colors (orange, pink, and turquoise), mercury glass bead garlands, vintage Christmas postcards turned ornaments, and most recently, vintage tinsel that I found at a summer estate sale.
For glass bulbs, Shiny Brite is a classic brand, and all the better if I can find ones with interesting color variations and/or glass glitter designs. Depending on the complexity of an ornament, you can expect to pay $2-$10 per ornament in an antique store, less in a thrift store, and even less at a rummage sale. Also pay attention to the boxes. A battered, vintage-looking box can often reveal interesting treasures. In terms of what you can expect to pay for other vintage holiday items… well, it varies widely. The best advice I can offer in terms of pricing? You can always barter (though be polite!) but if you know you’ll regret not buying, BUY IT!
In the end, your holiday traditions are a unique reflection of you and your family which, whether or not you opt to include a vintage element, is the most important part of the season.
But maybe this year, take a gander through your local antique store (mask up, of course!), let each kid pick out a vintage ornament and establish it as another Christmas tradition.