I’M DREAMING OF AN OLD CHRISTMAS
This is the title of one of my Pinterest boards and it has over 100 hundred pins of photos from all decades, but mostly, the 50’s. I collect Shiny Brite ornaments, vintage holiday items and every year, joyously celebrate my mom’s MCM (Mid-Century Modern) holiday.
Being a young child in the ’50’s, to me Christmas was about sweets, gifts and Santa. My mother ensured that it was a memorable and magic time for us and provided these items in abundance. Sugar was not a usual part of our diets. Our friends drank Coke and chewed gum, but in our house, sweets were reserved for desert and only if you ate your peas. (I still hate peas!) During the holidays, the reins were loosened. My grandmother’s candy bowl came out full of old-fashioned ribbon and other hard candies and both my baby brother and I had pretty consistent grips on sticky candy canes with their swirled stripes of Red Dye 40. Yeah, we were pretty buzzed!
My mother loved to recount the tale of my brother’s reaction to the Yule tree when he was 3 years old. We had all worked together to place the ornaments, my mother teaching my 5 year old self how to put the hooks on the balls and arrange them on the tree to best advantage. She showed us how to carefully place the tinsel so that it cascaded gently, reflecting the light.
When all the ornaments were placed we all stood back to admire. Mother and I were dazzled by the beauty of our creation. My brother’s delighted comment was, “Boy, what a mess!”
My mother was a talented and imaginative cook, a huge fan of parties and had a knack for collecting friends, and my dad was a handsome, smooth talkin’ man who could turn on the charm. Just the right mix for a holiday bash!
I clearly recall an open house we had the Christmas Eve day that I was 10. Open houses last for hours, with people coming and going. Food is served and constant entertainment is provided. My mother’s social skills were top drawer-no guest stood alone and no glass was ever empty- and this event was a double marathon for her.
This year, little daughter provided a third challenge. Especially fond on Chex party mix, I munched along with all the guests all day. My parents, otherwise occupied, were not providing a restraining hand so by the time the last guests departed, I had a tummy ache of some magnitude. My parent’s brilliant solution was to give me an early gift for comfort- a large stuffed dog. Worked like a charm. Ah, the magic of Christmas!
MY VERSION OF A MID-CENTURY HOLIDAY
Every year my best friend Karen, Darling Husband and I host our own bash. We all have been friends for nearly 50 years and our shared history makes us siblings. We are very fond of and enjoy retelling our parents’ stories to one another. Karen contributes her family’s Christmas party ware, Husband his mother’s cheerful enthusiasm and helping spirit and together we celebrate our dear mothers’ Christmases.
I contribute my mother’s ability to morph a Mid-Century Modest house into a glittering holiday. I collect Shiny Brite ornaments which have been produced since 1937. I have a few vintage ones, but they don’t look like they did when I was little, so I go for the new, reproductions, licensed by Christopher Radko. Every year my collection grows and every year I reconfigure the ornaments to feature different shapes. My colors are red, green and gold, a choice that was difficult to make given the rainbow offered by Shiny Brite, but I tend to like simplicity even in excess. I embellish the Shiny Brite with mercury glass figurals.
Looking online for tablecloths, I found 2 amazing pieces. The first is a round cloth made by Shiny Brite which fits my porch table perfectly. I was stunned when I was the highest bidder. Already owning way too much holiday décor, I try to keep my spending in check, but I was lucky this time, having been the only bidder. The other acquisition is amazinger and luckier. It is my family’s homemade tablecloth from the 50’s. I was stunned when I saw it on eBay. I would have paid any amount of $ for it, but St. Nick was with me and I got it for $12.00. Until I received it I wasn’t sure of its provenance, but I can state with great certainty that this is the cloth that graced our family table- same holly print fabric, same applied dangling green and red puffballs. I called my mother and casually described it to her. “Suzanne,” she exclaimed, “that sounds like our tablecloth when you were a little girl!”
I am fortunate to have her set of copper angels candle holders, trumpets pointed to the sky. She was always cheered to bring them out every year and their simple, Modern design makes me happy too.
The best I saved for last. Department stores used to offer photos with Santa, like the malls do now. The photos came in a printed cardboard frame with a Mid-Century style holiday image on the front. My mother saved mine and I have it now. Believe it or not, my husband’s mother saved his and they are the first pieces to come out every season. Extraordinarily, they look to having been taken the same year. Come back during the holidays and you’ll see them here!
The stage is set. The doorbell rings. Turn on old Bing crooning Santa Claus is Coming to Town and let the fellowship flow!