The Suitcase Lady


December 20, 2016, 11:35 pm

Picture the perfect Christmas home scene. Chances are the vision is a Victorian or colonial style house with a giant wreath on the door, lighted candles in every window and gentle snow falling over all. Decorating a home for Christmas is easy if you live in a historic home.

For thirty years, we lived in a small, midcentury modern house. (See Atomic in the archives.) We loved our atomic ranch but knew that “Christmas” and “modern” were polar opposites.

The history of midcentury design is fascinating. Two horrific World Wars and a global depression had occupied the first half of the last century. The world was not nostalgic for the past. People wanted a new start. Rationing had ended, food was plentiful and every scrap of metal no longer had to be saved for the war effort. Optimism abounded that the atom could be used for peaceful purposes. Science and space exploration were the new frontiers.

Midcentury Christmas decorations reflected all these trends. Aluminum Christmas trees flourished. Sputnik shaped ornaments decorated the metal trees. Space age Santas were in vogue.

Dare I say, take a look at these nostalgic pictures I’ve assembled from a non-nostalgic time. They’re a blast.

4 Comments for this entry

  • Alyce Weiss

    Love the old pictures. Never had an aluminum tree but did inherit a color wheel. Wish I still had it. Have a WE cookie book for you if you didn’t get one this year.

  • Karen Little on Facebook

    I loved “modern” and “do it yourself” creation of interesting stuff. My kids (both of whom might read this) absolutely did not, although thankfully, I did not scar them before they reached adulthood. They particularly hated a dowel tree I had one year, although my husband and I (pros at living in small places) adored it. On to today, I do not decorate much as we no longer entertain HOWEVER I am crazy nuts over thick-cored, electronic candles, one of the happiness wonders of the modern world. …. I totally envied your former home, especially your sliding, glass-encased display area. And as for your desire to always have an empty drawer in a house that was tight on storage space, I live by that model today. Thanks for the gift of an idea that keeps on giving!

  • eve robillard

    My mom (nee 1919) was eager to try the latest “thing.”
    I remember that fiberglass stuff that was supposed to look like snow, I suppose. I believe we tried it for two years in the mid-fifties. Some sort of fuzzy, hazey stuff one pulled down over the tree. Ack. And it hurt our fingers to remove. Then, finally, happily, we returned to old-fashioned “icicles.” thanks for the memory, Mary ps: the spun fiberglass was proclaimed “harmful.”

  • Karen Little on Facebook

    Flocking! Ah yes! My mom always watched the nickles and never bought enough high-quality tinsel.