Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Vintage Christmas and What That Means to Me

  As you may or may not know, I am and always have been a lover of old things. When my husband, daughter and I take country drives, I can't help but squeal in delight when we pass an old farmhouse. Maybe it is because, being originally a New Englander, I grew up in houses built in the 1800s. My mother and father furnished our home in antique auction and flea market finds, and even as a child I could see and appreciate the difference between the quality and detail seen in relics of the past and the disposable and cheap nature of the "goods" of the present.
  This rant has a point.
  When I began to think about putting up our family Christmas tree this year, of course I longed for the ornaments that donned the trees of my childhood- lovely and delicate antique glass orbs, most of which had belonged to my father's grandparents. I loved them as much for their flaws as anything else. The crackling paint and age spots only made them unique in my eyes. As I began to peruse shops in search of tree trimmings, what I saw stood in stark contrast to my memory. First, ALL of the Christmas bulbs I saw were made in China, and as you may know, new goods from China are avoided in our household. Second, the bulbs I saw were mostly cheap, tacky, and too perfect- they lacked character and interest. I couldn't see myself buying these to hang on our tree, even secondhand. 
  Now, imagine my absolute delight when B and I went into a thrift store we stop in frequently, and there in the Christmas section were several boxes of vintage bulbs- shining and glorious in their faded, mottled, and crackled appearances. I bought four boxes of them for $4.50. I couldn't have outfitted my tree in some cookie cutter Chinese junk for that much. And the bonus? I checked the boxes, and all of these beauties were made in the good old U.S. of A., back when all sorts of things were made in America. One box was even manufactured near my old hometown in Lewiston, ME. That made me happy. Behold:

I especially like the striped ones- we had some like this when I was a child!

  I began thinking about this when I entered Denise of The Blue Gardenia blog's giveaway (it is over now); to enter you had to comment on why you like vintage sewing patterns. I carried this question further. I wondered, why do I like all of this old stuff? Why do I like old clothes and patterns, Christmas bulbs and furniture, books and jewelry, linens and odds and ends. And as our family decorated our first tree as a trio, I came to a proper answer. I think I feel respect for these items almost as one does for an old man or woman. They have lived lives, they have been read, worn, used, and admired from before I was even born, and surely some of the vintage and antique goods I have now will outlast me. I thought, as I hung each bulb on the tree, of the family before ours that hugged and smiled in the reflected light of these glass bulbs. Maybe they hung for their baby's first Christmas, as they will for ours. They are remnants of a time when Christmas was not as commercialized as it is now- when it was not a season of greed and good deals, but giving and goodwill. Well, at least in our little farmhouse, we are bringing it back this year. We will not be swept up in the mania that has come to represent the modern Christmas, and instead we will relish the soft glow of family and love, quality and charity, simple lives and simpler pleasures. It is all that was good of times past that we seek to keep alive when we embrace these little physical reminders and put them to use.   


  1. Just beautiful! I've just bought a set of vintage painted wooden decorations on Ebay. I can't wait for them to arrive, whereas the identikit stuff in the shops, well it leaves me cold. So you're not alone! How many Christmas gatherings do you think your "new" baubles have witnessed in their lifetime?!
    Miss P

  2. Thank you both! Miss P, Isn't it fun to wonder? I hope your goodies get to you soon!

  3. Thought you might like this. They've arrived!!:


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