Fabulous 50’s Christmas Trends December 10 2014
The 1950's ushered in a new era of Christmas decoration trends. These outrageous and bold new trends reflected the post-World War II optimism and the new standard of living. Not only was there a fresh sense of prosperity, but a new wealth of machinery that allowed for mass produced and lower priced decorations.
The space age 1950’s gave rise to futuristic aluminum Christmas trees, which came in silver, pink and even purple. They rotated on electric tree stands which featured an electric light ‘color wheel’ that enhanced and changed the color of the trees. These unorthodox trees were considered irreverent by some due to their nontraditional appearance. Today these original vintage aluminum trees, especially in the rarer colors, are quite collectible.
Live trees, which were scarce during the war, became available again following World War II and American families bought roughly 31 million live trees during the 1954 Christmas season. Artificial trees, which came in a choice of green or white, featured branches that folded flat for convenient storage. These artificial trees were very popular among those whose homes had limited space that prohibited a live tree.
The previously popular handmade German ornament trade struggled after World War I, which prompted American innovators to mechanize the process. Mass-produced ornaments made in one factory were then sent on to other companies to be hand decorated. The largest of these American companies was “Shiny-Brite.”
Modern machinery made the new plastic ornaments inexpensive and abundant. Consumers often preferred the durability of these plastic baubles over the traditional glass. Toward the end of the 1950's Styrofoam (Polystyrene) balls decorated with sequins, rhinestones, ribbons and small beads appeared as another favorite ornament trend.
Christmas lighting was not left behind when it came to new technologies and trends. New technology produced new shapes and sizes of lights; now available were bubbling lights, electric flameless candles, figural lamps, and novelty shapes, such as, stars and hearts. The traditional teardrop shape we associate with vintage Christmas lights became the norm by the end of the 1950's.
Bubble lights were a popular midcentury trend in Christmas tree lighting. Each bubble light was composed of a candle-shaped glass tube which held a methylene chloride liquid which bubbled when electricity was applied to the light's metal screw-in base. By the end of the decade, General Electric had introduced "twinkle bulb" lights which flashed on and off to create the "twinkle" effect.
German nutcrackers found a broad audience in post-war America as U.S. GI’s brought them home after the war. The nutcrackers' iconic beards and hand painted rosy cheeks, spurred a wave of collecting. Today several makers, such as Steinbach, still produce limited editions of these traditional nutcrackers.
The 1950's was also a time that introduced other iconic decorative figurines, and Christmas ornaments that include elves, reindeer, and Christmas bells. These vintage decorations are still highly sought after and collectible today.