Saturday, December 2, 2017

Decorating for Christmas in the Early 1900's


Now that December is upon us, everyone--even those of us who have the staunch belief that it should wait until after Thanksgiving--will be decking the halls and streaming the lights. Decorating is a huge part of the Christmas season and the focus of so many lasting memories. So when I was writing Solve by Christmas, I knew some of the decorations needed to be included in the book. It just couldn't be a Christmas book without experiencing Christmas decor in Denver during 1913! But you know what? All of our electronic dancing reindeer and light-up gingerbread houses weren't real popular back then. ;)  I found I needed to do some research on what decorations were popular (not to mention invented) back then. It ended up being interesting, so I thought I'd share a bit of that information with ya'll.

 The Christmas Tree

Copyright: liligraphie / 123RF Stock Photo
Yes, even then, the Christmas tree was most celebrated. However the decorating of said tree looked a little bit different. Ornaments might be homemade, or look much like the ones we have today, minus the glitter. The family might also hang pine cones as ornaments. Popcorn strings were also popular, but what seemed to be the favorite was tinsel. Many of the pictures I found had brow-raising amounts of tinsel strewn all over the tree.

Electric Christmas lights were just becoming popular, but mostly for indoor displays by companies or people who could afford them. Otherwise, you'd have to use candles to light up the tree. Hopefully only in a figurative sense. According to the Smithsonian magazine,
"A string of 16 vaguely flame-shaped bulbs sitting in brass sockets the size of shot glasses sold for a pricey $12 (about $350 in today’s money) in 1900. But in 1894 President Cleveland put electric lights on the White House tree, and by 1914, a 16-foot string cost just $1.75."
(Read more here)
Sometime between 1900 and 1914, they figured out how to make electric Christmas lights affordable.
Source: Ladies Home Journal Dec. 1910

Christmas Greens

Holly, garland and wreaths were fashionable. The Ladies Home Journal in 1910 claimed, "There is scarcely a home in the whole country that does not have its holly wreath at Christmastime" But their wreaths were not only hung on doors, but also in windows so they might be seen from outside. 
Laurel leaves were also common. 

Store Toy Displays

Just as "Toys in every store" is iconic of Christmas time today, the extravagant toy displays in shop windows were so in the early 1900's.Many of the Christmas postcards depicted the shop window scenes with children peeking inside. There are some old vintage photos to prove it was a true-to-life sight.
There were other decorations, of course, such as stockings, ribbon or bows, and flower arrangements. With Solve by Christmas being set in Denver, Colorado, the best decoration of all was the snow left over from the blizzard of 1913. ;) But that's coming from a Colorado gal.

What are your favorite Christmas decorations? Share it, or a favorite Christmas decorating memory for your chance to win an ebook copy of Solve by Christmas!
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Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for travel, history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call "historical fiction at its finest".  Her title, Dawn of Liberty, was awarded the 2017 CSPA Book of the Year award in Historical Fiction. She lives in Colorado and spends half her time volunteering in the Ozarks. Amber is a proud member of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association. Visit her online at www.AmberSchamel.com/ and download a FREE story by subscribing to her Newsletter!

20 comments:

  1. Its interesting as we always had lots of tinsel on our tree (Maybe its an English thing and Aussies follow them). We only ever had lights once I remembered and I always wanted them. One of my favourite decorations would be over 56 years old. We had 3 left till about 15 years ago when my nephew broke one (of course he broke the green one not the pink one) But the one I like best is silver with multi colours and is a glass ball. Considering they survived by brother and I as children (they got them when my brother was 1) and then our honorary grandchildren and then the actual grandchildren plus about 3 cats they did well.

    In recent years I have been in a few ornament swaps and one was an Operation Santa decoration to help the USA troops. While I am not American I really love the idea and feel proud to put it on my tree. I am currently in the process of putting up my tree. Ok I have the tree in bits in the laundry to put up but at least its in the house and not the shed!

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    1. Hello Jenny!
      Thanks for stopping by and sharing with us! What precious memories those are. I think it is so neat that you support Operation Santa. May God bless you!
      Merry Christmas!

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  2. Hi Amber and thanks for your enjoyable post. I love a live Christmas tree but for convenience I put up an artificial tree and I just love sitting in the dark with only the white tree lights illuminating the room. You mentioned toystores in your post but our small town only had dime stores. Catalogs offered us the chance to look and dream and pick out what we would like Santa to bring. And, in one of our groceries, across the top shelf, we could dream about the dolls, trucks and gun & holster sets lined around the ceiling. I always dreamed about the life-size walking dolls but Santa thought I still needed baby dolls.
    Blessings!
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Hello Connie!
      Oh, yes. There's nothing like a room with Christmas Lights to see by. :D
      Those childhood memories of Christmas are priceless, aren't they? Even if we didn't get everything we wanted. :)

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  3. My favorite is always the nativity set my children bought for me. Then there’s a porcelain “just Mary and Joseph” with the baby in Mary’s arms and a wood carved Holy Family purchased in Italy. My sister in law always gave a nativity set as a wedding gift, which I think is such a thoughtful thing to do.

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Stephanie!
      I love nativity sets! I have started collecting them as well. I do think that would make a fine wedding present...in fact, I have a couple of weddings coming up, and you've given me inspiration. :)

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  4. Love your post, Amber! Thank you! I have a Santa that I received when I was a very little girl. I still have him and I love to see him every Christmas.

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    1. Hello Melanie! Good to see you. :)
      Aww, how sweet. Those items that somehow survive childhood do receive a medal of sorts...we cherish them forever.

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  5. Thanks for your post. Appreciate the effort you writers go to make your story details authentic to the period. I'm sure we readers don't realize the tons of time you take to do research!

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    1. You're right, Connie, but on the other hand, we do want the facts to flow seamlessly with the story. So I guess the fact that they don't notice all the research is a compliment. ;)
      Thanks for stopping by!

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  6. Our children's glittery paper cutouts, salt clay creations, and other homemade items have always been my favorite. I continued hanging them on our tree after our children had grown. I bought new ornaments when they began to complain about seeing them year after year, but I miss the memories the homemade ones gave me. I think I'll bring them out and reminiscence this year. Hopefully, our two-year old granddaughter will start bringing me some soon.

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    1. That is precious, Sandy. I have a friend who lost all of those handmade-by-child ornaments this year in a horrible flood. One more thing you can be thankful for this season.

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  7. I don't have a favorite decoration but many special ones but I do love decorating our tree with our grandkids.

    wfnren at aol dot com

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Wendy! Those decorating memories are sweet ones for me too.

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  8. When my children were young, we lived in Minneapolis. One of our favorite Christmas adventures was going downtown to walk the sidewalks and look at the mechanical window displays. They were magical for the children and adults enjoyed them, also. (That was in the early 1970's).

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    1. How neat! We never lived close enough to just go walking around town. LOL. But it does sound lovely.

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  9. A lovely post, Amber. I enjoy simplicity of decorating for Christmas. A favorite memory at our home and grandparents were the Nativity scene displayed. That's my main focus for decorating is having one of my Nativity Sets displayed with the Bible open to Luke 2. After all, Christmas is celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior and not all the commercial decorations that are available today.

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    1. Amen, that is so true! When I was growing up, my mom had us to memorize Luke 2. Most of it anyway. We still recite it on Christmas or Christmas Eve.

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  10. Funny, I just made a post yesterday about decorating the tree, but mostly about our Angel topper. My favorite decorations are the ones my momma and my children made. Each one holds a dear memory.
    TY for the book giveaway. I have LONG wanted this book! :-)

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    1. Memories are priceless, so anything that brings them to mind is too. :)
      Thanks for stopping by, Anne! Best wishes in the giveaway.

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