16 Vintage Christmas Decorations That’ll Take You Back to Grandma’s
Throw back to the good ol' days with vintage Christmas decorations.
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Remember being a wide-eyed kid looking at a perfectly arranged nativity scene? The brightly painted figurines of the three wise men, Mary, Joseph and, of course, baby Jesus, brought a story to life in living color. It’s surprisingly easy to find a vintage-inspired nativity scene even now, along with sleek and contemporary nativity scenes like this.
According to German lore, nutcracker soldiers were supposed to protect the house from evil, making them the perfect decoration for the holiday season. You can find hand-painted figurines at antique stores or on eBay—or check Etsy for a more modern version, like this nutcracker planter.
Bring more German cheer to the holidays with some traditional Christmas stollen, too.
Most of us have treasured memories of holiday dishes decorated with Christmas motifs, with each plate, cup and bowl handed carefully through generations. You can find vintage-inspired sets at Macy’s or start fresh with a contemporary (and cute!) set like this.
Vintage Holiday Records
“Have yourself a merry little Christmas…” If the dulcet tones of Bing Crosby aren’t ringing through the house, is it really Christmas? It’s time to break out the vintage records and set up some steaming hazelnut hot chocolate on these quirky upcycled vinyl coasters.
Ceramic Christmas Villages
In the 18th century, Europeans began to expand their nativity scenes to include more than the main characters, and two centuries later, Christmas villages became beloved holiday decor across America. Also known as a putz (again, credited to the Germans), we love this modern-day paper version on them that brightened up with glitter, LED lights and any other decorations.
Christmas Tree Trains
No one’s really sure how Christmas trains got started, but some credit to the popularity of model railroads in the 1900s. Since these were popular gift items, enthusiastic children often set them up around the Christmas tree, creating a tradition that has now spanned over a century. Set up this absolutely magical Harry Potter train set around your tree.
Bottlebrush trees probably started out as part of the putz scenes under Christmas trees, and no holiday season at Grandma’s was complete without them! While these vintage mini trees will always take us right back to childhood celebrations, we’re updating our look with pretty metallic bottlebrush trees.
Shiny Brite Ornaments
The best part about these ornaments is all in the name, of course! Christmas was incomplete without seeing these glass baubles sparkling on the tree, though they lost some of their shine after the 1960s. You can still find boxes of vintages Shiny Brite ornaments on Etsy, as well as brand-new Shiny Brite ornament sets.
Popcorn Cranberry Garland
Yet another German tradition made its way to American shores in the 16th century with the popcorn cranberry garland. Settlers often made their own decorations, and these became a popular Christmas ornament across the country. If you’re not up for the time-consuming task of creating one by hand, this faux-popcorn garland would make a great addition to your Christmas tree.
There’s very little that matches the magic of shaking a snow globe to see flakes of glitter appear around Santa and his reindeer—it’s like magic! This Christmas village snow globe steps it up a notch with a moving train and music.
Did we hear vintage Christmas lights? (No, really, we always swore we could hear a little buzz from these.) These big retro bulbs were the original fairy lights, but were phased out after a few decades of popularity when we discovered the fluid inside could cause poisoning when inhaled. Eek! For a safe update, check out these colorful Christmas lights.
Some of our best memories involve waking up to break into the Christmas stocking (as if we hadn’t already snuck down and peeked the night before)! While the classic needlepoint stockings (made with love by Grandma) never go out of style, these pretty patterned ones are great if your decor tends more towards the contemporary.
We can’t really blame Hansel and Gretel for trying to eat the witch’s house. It was probably tasty! Another German import dating back to the 1500s, gingerbread house kits are now a beloved part of preparing for Christmas. Honestly, when it comes to these, we’d say don’t mess with a classic, but this gingerbread barn might change our mind. Of course, you can always build your own at home, too.
Pieces of shiny, feathery tinsel were a Christmas tree staple before we realized it contained lead, which made it a hazard for pets who might chew on it. For maximum (safe) sparkle, look for a vintage aluminum Christmas tree!
Once a status symbol, rocking horses eventually became part of the Christmas lore and decor. This children’s toy usually featured the bright pastel colors or light wood tones that were popular at the time. If you’re not up for a full-size rocking horse, these rocking horse tree ornaments will add some nostalgia to your decor.
Handmade paper chains were a quick and easy way to get some color on the tree, walls, windows and doors—and of course, they made for a great family activity! To recreate these crafts with your children, these pretty paper chains are the best way to deck the halls.