Just a gal remembering back when things were different. Generations come and go but memories stay in your heart
The Christmas Yule Log On TV
Vintage Christmas Remembered
Seems funny that the Christmas that I remember as a child would be called vintage. Because, really it does not seem that long ago. Sure, some may argue that nothing stays the same. The world changes. I get that too. But I also long for a time when Christmas was celebrated for weeks ahead of that special day.
For us, the Christmas season would start on Thanksgiving night, My dad would load us into the car and we would go to see the Christmas lights in a bigger town a little away from us. That would start the Christmas season.
My childhood was in the 50s and 60s. The world seemed to be a lot more simple than it is now. I grew up in a small town in New Jersey. Some of our traditions were typical to the area we lived in. But ,many were pretty much the same no matter where you lived.
Aluminum Christmas Trees
School Celebrations Were Special
The weeks before Christmas at school was very special. Every classroom was decorated with handmade decorations that we would all make. The windows had paper snowflakes.
There were projects that we would make for our parents and grandparents wrapped in tissue paper, often messy. We would head home with our treasures and try to hide them till Christmas Day.
We always had a day when we did the Christmas Assembly. The whole school would be there and each class would do a skit or a song and everyone would cheer , laugh and just be joyous.
Everyone would bring Christmas cards in for their classmates. We would make boxes with our names on them, placed carefully on our desk. Every day you would check to see if you had received a card that day. Those cards were considered special treasures.
The last day before Christmas would be our Christmas Party. That was the day you really looked forward to. Parents would bring in all kinds of homemade goodies for the class. We would have punch to go along with them. You could hear laughter throughout the school. The party was usually at the end of the day. Once the bell rang, you knew Christmas vacation had begun.
Making Christmas Projects At School
Almost Every House Had Decorations And Lights
Whole streets were lit up with Christmas lights, but never before Thanksgiving. Every house it seemed had at least one string of lights. Some would decorate their trees and bushes. Most of the lights were big bulbs then. When one burned out, you just unscrewed it and put in a new one.
I can remember my Dad unwrapping those lights. Of course they would get tangled and we would have to help straighten them out. And then we would help him get them up. We would complain about doing it, but secretly we thought that time spent with him was special.
Some houses would have all white lights. They would outline the house with lights that shone on the snow. It was magical to see the lights reflected in the snow and on the icicles hanging off the roof.
Other houses would have a mix of colors. The whole street seemed like a wonderland of color and beauty to me as a child.
But the one house I remember most was the house that had all blue lights. The whole house was outlined in all blue. It was across the street from where we lived. I would look out the window and see the blue lights reflected against the snow. Blue was always my favorite color, so this house was special to me.
Many houses had plastic candles in the windows, That was to light the way for the Holy Family and to welcome them to your home.
Pine wreaths were very popular. They were simple pine wreaths with a big red plastic bow. They often had some berries and pine cones on them. They gave a scent as you entered the house. It felt very welcoming.
Then there were the Santa faces that lit up on doors. I really loved the one my parents had. It had a face and eyes that said Merry Christmas. He really was a jolly old elf.
Christmas Trees And Ornaments
There was always so much excitement on Christmas Eve when the Christmas tree which had been sitting on the side of the house in a bucket of water was brought in.
My Dad was a volunteer fireman and so the tree did not come in until Christmas Eve Day. I recall the excitement as the tree was placed in the place of honor reserved for it. It was always placed at the right side of our fireplace. Far enough to be safe. But it was close enough to create a lovely Christmas scene.
There was the anticipation as Dad got the lights in place and we were allowed to start placing the ornaments. Mom would supervise and help with the ornaments in places that we could not reach. Each ornament was unwrapped carefully. Discussion was held so that each piece was placed in just the right place.
My favorite lights were the bubble lights. There were glass tubes that held colored water. When the base would warm the water, they would bubble inside the tube. We had several stings of those. They had multiple colors and were carefully placed on the right branches.
My Mom decided to use angel hair one year. It was supposed to mimic snow. The stuff was made from spun fiberglass. It also had asbestos in it. It was terribly itchy but looked beautiful. Somehow it got into our new Christmas pajamas and gave us all a rash. That was the one and only year she used it. I have read that you can still get it, but why would you want it? That was one thing that went out of fashion in a good way,
Another thing that has faded from the Christmas scene is tinsel. These were long strands of silver that were hung on the tree to mimic icicles. The problem was at the time, they were made of lead. Not really good if you had kids around. Who knew? You can still get them. but they are made out of mylar. They are however dangerous to pets and kids who often will put them in their mouths.
Christmas Eve Church Services
All the churches in the town had services on Christmas Eve. For some it was a candlelight service in the early evening. These services were always joyous events.
For us it was Christmas Eve Midnight Mass. But no matter which way you celebrated, everyone took time to remember the real reason for the holiday. The candles seemed to have a special glow. We celebrated the Advent season with a wreath called the Advent wreath. Every Sunday, leading up to Christmas, an additional candle would be lit. On Christmas Eve all the candles would be lit. It added to the joy of the season.
Many churches were decorated with pointsettia flowers and special arrangements for the holiday. There was always the Christmas colors in the arrangements throughout the church.
Choirs were especial part of every church service. Weeks were spent preparing for Christmas Eve. And these were all the favorite Christmas hymns sung by both the choir and the congregation.
Every church had it's creche or nativity scene. In many churches the manger was left empty until Christmas Eve night. That night the Baby Jesus would be placed in the manger with great pomp.
These were not like the nativity that we had at home. They were much larger and had a lot of detail in them. Many of them were imported from Europe. They were a treasured part of Christmas.
Family Nativity Sets
Groups of children in the neighborhood would often get together on Christmas week to go caroling. They would go door to door caroling the songs that we all knew and loved, Their sweet voices were enjoyed by all. Often the folks at the houses they were caroling would offer them some Christmas cookies or a treat.
Adults would carol too. Groups would carol in and near malls and shopping centers. They added to the Christmas spirit.
Christmas Day Dinner
Like today, Christmas dinner was always enjoyed as part of the Christmas celebration. Many folks had a turkey, but our favorite was ham with all the trimmings. My Dad would take special attention to making the diamonds on the top of the ham. He would place cloves into the meat and then would put on the cherries with toothpicks. I would take great joy in watching him. Dad would give me one of the cherries, which was a great treat.
Do you remember those jiggly Jello mold salads that were all the rage in the 50s and 60s? You could put almost anything in them. Because Jello came in green and red, they were often made during the Christmas holiday. They looked pretty on the table.
There were always pies and perhaps a little ice cream to go on top !
You always ate on your best plates on Christmas. The table would always be special with extra treats and surprises that we all looked forward to. The family china that has been passed down through the family is always on the Christmas table. It keeps that link throughout the generations.
The Green Bean Casserole
Ragetty Ann And Andy
Top Toys For Christmas in the 50s-60s
The joy of waking up on Christmas morning hoping that Santa had payed you a visit was a memory that sticks in my head and heart even today. There was magic in that one day every year.
As children we always used our imagination when it came to our toys. There were a lot of choices when it came to what you wanted to ask Santa to bring. Back then, big deals were new sleds and new bikes.
Mr. Potato Head came out in 1952. But then, you actually had to use a real potato or another vegetable. The parts would be placed over and over in that spud. Later on, Mrs. Potato Head came on the scene.
Playdoh showed up in 1956 and was a huge hit. You could play for hours with the stuff making all kinds of things. Then roll it up and it would be good to play with again. The parents liked it because it was nontoxic.
The Viewmaster was a really popular toy. It looked kind of like binoculars. It came with these round discs that you would put into the viewer. Once the disc was in, you would see an image. Then you would click a lever to see the next one. You got to see a 3D image. There were lots of extra discs to chose from. If one of your friends had one , you could share and compare the discs.
Games were really popular with all kids. There were Chutes and Ladders, Candyland, Cootie, and Parchessi.
There were cowboy sets for the boys. They came complete with holsters and pairs of cap guns or rifles. Often the sets were named after the cowboy shows of the day.. Tonka Trucks were just starting to get popular. GI Joe came out in the 60s and was a huge hit. The doll came in uniform and there were dozen of accessories and sets added on later.
There were Lincoln logs and bags of plastic figures. These figures included army guys and cowboys and Indians.
In 1959, the very first Barbie was rolled out. She was dressed in a black and white bathing suit. She also came with pumps and a ponytail. She was billed as a teenage fashion doll. And she was true to life in her figure. Kids took to her right away, Moms at the time had mixed feelings. They were more used to their girls cuddling little baby dolls.
Tiny Tears was a doll in the 50s. She would cry from two holes in her eyes and her eyes would close as if to sleep.
The Frisbee throwing disc appeared on the market in 1957. The Hula Hoop arrived in 1958. Both were very popular and have continued to be enjoyed by children.
Metal Doll Houses
Vintage Christmas Songs From The 50s
Coffee Klatches Were Common
Casual Christmas Gatherings
During the holiday season, there would be family gatherings either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. I remember my aunt and uncle coming buy on Christmas Day. A lot of my mom's family lived in New York City and Staten Island. So, at some time during the season, we would head on over to see them.
Neighbors would often get together during the holidays. In our neighborhood, everyone knew everyone. Moms did not work as much then. so it was very common for the local mothers to have coffee together. At Christmas time it was even more special. All the mothers would bake special treats. There were plates of cookies arriving every day. Those were the original cookie exchanges.
Christmas TV Shows
Holiday TV Specials
From Thanksgiving onwards all the programs on TV would start gearing towards Christmas. The closer it got to the holiday, the better the TV programs were.
The regular weekly programs would start shifting towards Christmas themes. By Christmas week they would be in full gear spreading good cheer.
On top of that, there were the Christmas specials to look forward to. Singers like Andy Williams, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Bing Crosby would have specials with guests that would really be entertaining.
Everyone watched the Bob Hope Christmas Special. It was very entertaining. Often it would be somewhere where the servicemen and women were. They would make it extra special.
Holiday Music From the 50s
More Christmas Music from the 50s and 60s
- The Most Beautiful Christmas Songs from the 50s & 60s by Various Artists on Spotify
The Most Beautiful Christmas Songs from the 50s & 60s, an album by Various Artists on Spotify
Christmas Movies From The 50s
Some of the best Christmas movies were made during the 50s and 60s. Here are some of the classics of those two decades:
- The Great Rupert – 1950; directed by Irving Pichel; starring Jimmy Durante, Terry Moore, and Tom Drake. A classic comedy that’s great for kids, featuring a charming animated dancing squirrel who inadvertently helps out two families.
- A Christmas Carol – 1951; directed by Brian Desmond Hurst; starring Alastair Sim, Jack Warner, and Kathleen Harrison. This is easily one of the most beloved film portrayals of the famous Charles Dickens Christmas classic
- The Lemon Drop Kid – 1951; directed by Sidney Lanfield and Frank Tashlin; starring Bob Hope, Marilyn Maxwell, and Lloyd Nolan.
- The Lemon Drop kid finds himself owing an unhappy gangster $10,000 and takes advantage of the Christmas spirit to make some money.
- The Holly and the Ivy – 1952; directed by George More O’Ferrall; starring Ralph Richardson, Celia Johnson, and Margaret Leighton. A dramatic story about a minister and his family reunited at Christmas, with an emphasis on struggles during the WWII years.
- Susan Slept Here – 1954; directed by Frank Tashlin; starring Dick Powell, Debbie Reynolds, and Anne Francis. The comedic tale of a struggling scriptwriter’s unexpected Christmas present, a juvenile delinquent named Susan.
- White Christmas – 1954; directed by Michael Curtiz; starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney. Music, comedy, and romance come together in the Christmastime tale that involves saving a failing inn in Vermont.
- We’re No Angels – 1955; directed by Michael Curtiz; starring Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov, and Aldo Ray. An iconic Christmas comedy about the helpful holiday hijinx of three escaped convicts.
Rudolph The Red Nosed Raindeer
Movies On TV by the 60s
In the 60s movies were starting to be made for Tv and were very popular. Many of these classics are still being played today
- Babes In Toyland-1961
- Mr Magoo's Christmas Carol-1962
- Rudolph The Red Nosed Raindeer-1864
- Charlie Brown Christmas-1965
- The Christmas That Almost Wasn't -1966
- How The Grinch Stole Christmas-1966
- The Little Drummer Boy-1968
- Frosty The Snowman -1969
- A Christmas Carol-1970
Christmas Cards in the 50s and 60s
Christmas Cards Were Sent Every Year
As a child, I remember the expectation every day when the mailman would come. We had a box attached to the house. You would hear him arrive and the joy of seeing what he brought every day was exceptional,
The Christmas cards were numerous then. There were no computers so people sent a lot more cards then they do now. It was great fun as my parents would open them to read them and the we would get a chance to read them too. They would be placed on the mantle of our home with all of us watching.
In the 60s photo greeting cards were starting to be sent. Family photos were turned into a single sheet greeting card.
It was also a custom to give all your classmates a Christmas card every year. There would be boxes on each desk and the teacher's desk too. How exciting it was to get those cards ! They were colorful and fun to read.
In our town there was a tree lighting ceremony. The little community are was transformed with all kinds of decorations. There were snowmen that were made of plastic that lite up. There were designs made out of lights.
There was a special nativity that was very enjoyed. It had a stable that was made by one of the local craftsman. There was real straw in the stable.The figures were very well done.
On Christmas Eve, Santa would arrive on a fire truck. We would all get in line to have a last visit with him before he was to head out on his sleigh. After having a few words with Santa, we would be given a stocking. It had the best orange and apple in it. It also had a candy cane, some hard candies and some chocolate. We also had a coloring book, That tradition was loved by all the kids in the town,
Final Thoughts On Christmas In the 50s and 60s
I look back and realize the fun that we had as children. We didn't sit in front of a computer playing video games all day. We played outdoors riding bikes or sledding on the winter. We made snowmen and igloos and had an occasional snowball fight.
We only were indoors when it rained or snowed too hard. Then, we played games together, colored or played with our toys.
Neighbors knew each other and there was a sense of neighborhood and community then. People seemed to care more about each other.
Is Christmas different then it was then? I would say so. But I still see the wonder of the season in my grandchildren and great grandchildren's eyes.
Merry Christmas to you and yours !
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2020 Linda F Correa
What Do You Remember about Christmas In The 50s and 60s?
Linda F Correa (author) from Spring Hill Florida on December 15, 2020:
Thank you for the lovely comment. Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. Sharing a few memories bring back those happy carefree days. Merry Christmas to you and yours
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on December 14, 2020:
Thank you for sharing your memories. I enjoyed reading about them very much. I grew up in a different country, but some of my memories are the same as yours or very similar. Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. Merry Christmas to you.