If you are planning to give Christmas a retro theme, here are a few suggestions from the 50s, 60s and 70s.
Christmas can be a great time to give your home a retro look. Retro Christmas decorations are cheap to buy and can look great. There are also new decorations available with a retro theme.
You could also give your Christmas lunch a retro twist. We look at the traditional Xmas meal, as well as Christmas TV and toys and games from the past.
Retro Christmas decorations
The traditional real Christmas tree was popular in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. Although artificial tinsel Christmas trees were gaining in popularity; you did not have to hoover up the pine needles.
This artificial Christmas tree (right) is from around 1965. They also have some retro style Christmas lights on the tree. Retro, to us that is, in the 60s they thought these were really modern.
This tree, in a fairly well off middle class home, is decorated in a restrained manner with only a few shiny balls in addition to the Christmas lights. Perhaps it says something about the minimalist modernity of the 60s.
These two ladies (left) are enjoying a Christmas drink in front of a real Christmas tree in 1962. This looks like a more working class home than the previous photograph. Here the heavily decorated real tree, and hand made paper chain decorations holds sway. These people are also proudly displaying a selection of Christmas cards from friends and relatives.
Baubles or shiny balls were favourite Christmas decorations in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. Baubles from the 50s and 60s reflected some of the modern style of the era. There were two popular types: the icicle and the ball with a crushed in or indented look.
These two baubles on the far right are of the icicle design. Their elongated cigar type shape gave a modern look to the traditional Christmas shiny ball.
The retro baubles on the left show the crushed in look. I wonder if it was meant to represent a lamp? The seventies brought unbreakable plastic shiny balls.
Where do I buy retro baubles?
Whilst you can get modern versions of retro style Christmas baubles, there is nothing better than the real thing. They do turn up from time to time in charity shops, but decorations from the 50s or 60s are harder to come by these days. There is always a good selection of retro baubles on eBay. £10 will get you a box of small decorations, but you will need to pay £20 to £30 for a good quality box of large baubles from the 60s.
Angel pine tree
This Angel Pine Christmas Tree (left) dates from the 1960s. It is made from aluminium foil. The red decoration is part of the tree. It was a variation on an earlier design. I imagine it was an attempt to "jazz up" the previous look. The instructions for the tree without the red decoration recommended a few, large shiny balls as decoration. Once again, the minimalist, good taste look.
Beware, if you do have one of Angel Pine Trees, they cannot be decorated with electric Christmas lights.
This delightful picture, right, shows two children decorating a small Christmas tree in 1965. It was common to have a smaller tree in the hall or on the landing, as shown here. Once again restrained decoration is preferred.
Christmas lunch from the mid fifties onwards, once rationing had been forgotten, was a very traditional affair. The menu would be recognisable by most people today as the traditional Christmas celebration.
Christmas was, as is now, very much a family event, with everyone sitting down to the traditional Christmas lunch.
Many people served turkey as the main meal throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s. The evergreen TV Chef, Marguerite Pattern suggested turkey and gammon for the main course. A Christmas pudding usually followed, topped with custard. For alternative puddings Marguerite Patten suggested Charlotte Russe, a dessert made from double cream, jelly, oranges and apricots, surrounded by sponge fingers, (sponge fingers were popular in the 60s and 70s), or raspberry meringue nests.
Mince pies were also favourites, as were mincemeat based puddings, such as a mincemeat flan topped with meringue.
This picture, right, is from the late fifties. People often wore their best clothes for Christmas. The young girl in this picture is wearing a red dress with faux leopard skin trim. Leopard skin was very popular in the late 50s.
Both tables are decorated with a centre piece of red candles and Christmas foliage. This was a traditional Christmas table decoration in the 50s and 60s.
This group are enjoying a choice of wine or orange juice. Wine was a middle class drink in this era. Many people would have had beer on the table at Christmas. Mild or brown ale was popular in the late fifties and early sixties. By the seventies, more people would be drinking wine: namely Blue Nun or Black Tower. By the 80s, dry wines were in, Chardonnay in particular.
After the Christmas lunch, many people settled down to watch the Queen's Christmas speech to the nation. The Queen first broadcast a Christmas message on television in 1957. Another television tradition that started in the 70s was the Morecambe and Wise Christmas show. The two comedians claimed Christmas would not be the same without them. Other favourite Christmas shows from the 70s included the Two Ronnies and Mike Yarwood.
For more on Christmas TV in the 60s see:
Families also ate a traditional Christmas tea, as well as lunch. It was often a salad, with cold turkey left over from lunch, which, no doubt would do for Boxing Day (and beyond!) as well. This family (right) is enjoying a salad. Party hats from crackers add to the festive flavour.
There are bottles of HP sauce and Heinz Salad Cream on the table. There is a good sized pork pie and some tomatoes and cucumber. The drink is probably port. Port was the most popular wine before the War and was still enjoyed in many homes at Christmas. However, sherry was gaining in popularity and had ousted port as Britain's favourite wine long before 1962. No Christmas tea would be complete without the traditional Christmas cake - usually a rich fruit cake, decorated with (usually rock hard!) royal icing, made to look like snow and with a plastic snowman and Santa as the finishing touches.
Retro style Christmas drinks
Go retro this Christmas with this classic cocktail, the Snowball, which was popular in the 60s and 70s. Just mix advocaat, lemonade and a dash of lime cordial, whisk and serve in a tall glass with a cherry on a cocktail stick.
For a stronger drink try a shot of vodka for a Russian Snowball.
Where to buy retro Christmas decorations
eBay is a great place to shop for retro Christmas decorations. They are usually very cheap compared with the modern ones and look much more distinctive. Mix and match modern with original decorations from the 50s and 60s, or go completely retro.
Your memories of Christmas past
"as a child We had an Angel pine tree that was all silver
and the branches would fit into holes into the central column of the tree however we use to put knome fairy lights around and up the central stem of the tree starting from the top and working down to the bottom where the lead to the plug would be we even had them flashing....lol then we would fit the branches fond memories however ours was all silver it didn't have red on it like in the picture we had it for years and years I wish we had the same tree now I wish I could purchase one from somewhere do they still make them?" Tom 29/12/2010
"Am looking for some Christmas lights from 1950's. They were glass candles which had coloured liquid inside and when heated they bubbled. My father bought them for me and now he has died I would really like to find a set. We always left them on the Christmas tree for my birthday parties 7th Jan. and I will never forget the sound they made and what they meant to me then." Sally Bennell 11/01/2011
"A 70s Christmas...
My memories of a quintessential 70s Christmas were... waking up early, very excited indeed, wondering what Santa had delivered. One year (1973) I had a Dr Who toy Dalek. Another year (1977) a Raleigh Budgie mini Chopper bike. By mid morning there would be the unmistakable aroma of roast turkey drifting throughout the house.
Apart from Christmas '78 we always had turkey, that year we had goose - very nice too. The roast was served with stuffing, Brussels sprouts, roast potatoes, parsnips, carrots and pigs in blankets. We had the rare treat of white wine with the meal - I was allowed a little! My father would always light the pud with rum, while wearing a typical 70s cardigan. To finish off we all had an after eight mint, and the adults also had a Benedictine liquor amongst themselves, or maybe a Harvey's Bristol cream. Then came the Queen's speech. After that we watched the feature film which would take us up to the evening snack of cold turkey and pickle sandwiches followed by the obligatory Yule log and mince pies. We would round the evening off by maybe watching another film or the Christmas Morecambe and Wise show - I would be starting my bar of Toblerone by then.
Its no wonder I love looking back to that magical decade - the decade which did Christmas so very well..." Tony 05/12/2013 05/12/2013
"your dates on the christmas trees are compleatly wrong i have to say if you want some help on dateing christmas trees and decorations please get n touch with me , the fake tree isnt the 60s the give away is the long strands this stile came in in the mid to late 70s" terri fox 11/02/2014
"I would dearly love to find the tree lights we had in the post war years of1940/50,s - they had been sent from America by a kind relation and in my advanced years, they are my abiding Christmas memory. They were the typical 'fat chilli' shape but the most unusual feature was the colours. I am sure that each bulb had been dipped, to give a thin layer of enamel type paint and the effect was truly magical. They didn't, shine brightly . But nestling amongst the pine needles they had an almost coy and wonderful glow. My favourite was the yellow and this to me is the color of Christmas." Gary matthews 15/11/2015
"Us children of the 70s had the best christmases ever!! Woke early early morning to find our sacks at bottom of the bed full of goodies!!! ALWAYS a selection box and tangerines in sack!i had katie copycat dolls barbie dolls spirograph..brilliant board games list is endless!! Fantastic food and lots of family!!! Oh for those days again...thank you mom and dad for creating those memories!!!" Catherine thompson 23/11/2017
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