Decorating Ideas through Vintage Christmas Postcards


Lush landscapes, round-faced, rosy-cheeked children, ornate backgrounds, gold-leafing and glorious color... These things and more are found in vintage Christmas postcards from the early 20th century. And by taking hints from them, it might just be help the savvy decorator looking to add a bit of Victorian-era Christmas charm to their home.

See, what's interesting is, when we look at postcards from around 1910, it's striking to see the ways that Christmas has changed over the years. For instance, how often today do we associate Christmas with images of roses? Yet in vintage postcards, roses abound just like it was summer in bloom. You can see one example of this in the card below, where proud rose topiaries flank a tranquil snow scene...


I actually integrate silk and velvet roses into my decorating quite often around the holidays. In combination with the more traditional boughs of pine and holly, it adds an extra richness to tablescapes.

These kinds of calm, winter scenes were quite common during Christmas postcards of the time. In addition to the use of roses as Christmas decor, we can also see that red and green weren't the sole colors of Christmas. In fact, vibrant purples, as shown through this lovely little church, were a regularly-used shades...

I think folks have more options now than we used to, to decorate beyond the expected red, green and gold shades for the holidays. For instance, purple, within the last few years, has seen a real comeback in department stores as enticing Christmas color schemes. Both royal and ice blue also seem to be used increasingly.

So if you're a vintage person at heart, going with some of these less-used shades really isn't as inappropriate as you'd think. Because my diningroom already has pinkish-purples in it, that room inevitably gets a good dose of Christmas purple each year.

And what has stayed the same? Well, holly and mistletoe are still the symbols of Christmas they once were, as seen in this cheerful postcard from 1913...


Just look at those ripe red berries! (Only, make sure your pets don't get into them, they can be very dangerous for our furry friends.)

Here we see a snow scene done in mint greens and pinks...


That mint green is just about the shade of a lot of fireplace tile (including my own) done around the late 1800s, early 1900s. Perhaps that might inspire your color scheme for Christmas as well!

Now, here we see the kiddies spending a winter day enjoying a good ol' snowball fight. Ah, you can almost envision Randy from "A Christmas Story" so bundled up in woolly things he looks like a tick ready to pop...


It also makes me think-- how about a little theme tree covered in things like warm mittens, hats, earmuffs and scarves? A trip to the thrift store and these things can be found inexpensively, and it might add a bit of whimsy to a Christmas display. A pile of styrofoam snowballs in the corner might also make holiday guests get a chuckle!

Angels, of course, have been important symbols of Christmas for many decades...


The difference in imagery from around 1910 is that the angels were often depicted more like cherubs-- fat babies or children with beautiful faces. Many were illustrated, like the one above, while others were edited, tinted photos of real children, like the ones below...


Again, you'll see pastels at work here as Christmas colors.

"Well, what about Santa?" you ask. (Okay, well, perhaps you didn't. But pretend you did.) Did you know old Saint Nick didn't actually appear very often on Christmas cards in the Victorian and Edwardian era?...


Yep- Ol' Kris Kringle began to be more commonly associated with Christmas items once CocaCola started using the image in their early 20th century advertising. Typically portrayed with a red suit, that's how the Christmas colors of red and green became the traditional Christmas staple we know today.

Of course, the more things change, the more things stay the same. I mean, even pretty children from the turn of the last century were kids at heart....

The little girl here, looks pained and unhappy in her post. The boy in brown is holding his little brother in place in a bit of a vise grip, and little brother himself looks like he's ready to be off and playing-- not sitting here on this carpet bare-legged and bored.

And who can blame him?

Here you get a similar sense from this round-faced Hansel and Gretel...


Gretel looks about ready to come in from the cold, and stop messing around with fir trees, doesn't she? It might be consoling to keep this in mind, when your own family's Christmas memory portraits feel a bit like trying to herd cats.

Lastly, I leave you with this curly-haired moppet bedecked in purple flowers.


No matter what colors you choose, or how you decorate this holiday season, just remember-- do what you love and don't sweat the small stuff. Because really, that's what it's all about!


And this coming Wednesday? I'm hoping to have some pics of my lastest Christmas decorating. But we'll see how that goes!

14 comments:

Debbie said...

Hi Jenn......the vintage cards are lovely....thanks for showing us yours!

Happy Holidays!
Debbie

RecycleCindy said...

Such lovely Victorian Christmas postcards. It was a joy to see each card. Thank you for sharing these beautiful items. Definitely worth a stubmle and review so others can enjoy your post too.

Carrie said...

I enjoyed reading this creative and well-written post. Thanks for the tips.
Carrie

Thrift Shop Romantic said...

Debbie- Happy holidays to you too! I hope you have a great one.

Cindy- Aw, thanks so much. Hope you're doing well this season!

Carrie- Many thanks! You know, every time I see a unique nativity scene I think of you and your collection? :)

Paula said...

Beautiful Victorian cards and wonderful ideas. You've inspired me to consider other colors! I think a tree with vintage Christmas cards and postcards would be lovely...like those you've posted. And I adore the idea of the tree with the mittens and scarves!

I'm off to do more decorating!

Da Old Man said...

I wonder if the roses were used because of the religious tie in? In Catholicism, December is a special month for Mary, mother of Jesus. Roses are used to honor her, and one of her religious titles is "Our Lady of the Roses." Just a thought as 100 years ago, Christmas wasn't quite the secular extravaganza it is today.

Lana Gramlich said...

I LOVE the card from 1913! How lovely! Thanks for pointing out some of the differences between Xmas now & then. I didn't know much of that. Informative!

Rosemary said...

Hi Jenn,
Love the old postcards! I have a small collection. I do like the graphics for using in different projects.
Thanks for sharing your collection.
Have a great week,
Rosemary

MizSmoochieLips said...

What a great lot of Xmas past!
You also won a giveaway on my blog :)

Sher's Creative Expressions said...

I adore those vintage, victorian post cards. Lovely, just lovely.

Blessings,

Sher

Thrift Shop Romantic said...

Paula- I think the cards might need to be backed by something-- maybe decoupaged onto a thin wooden block. And I'd recommend working with scans or photocopies of the cards instead of the cards themselves to preserve them. But no question it would be a beautiful tree with some great history!

Da Old Man- It's a distinct possibility, I really don't know much about it. I do know roses were a regular part of decorating in general at the time, so I don't know if the roses took on greater symbolism at Christmas then or not.

Lana- It's just interesting to see how color was used then. I'm always shocked to find so much purple used then.

Rosemary- They are great images for crafting certainly! You have a great week yourself!

MizSmoochieLips- Oh wow! I'm both surprised and delighted!

Sher- Thank you, and thanks for stopping by.

Araceli said...

It's a beautiful collection of Christmas cards.

Pamela Plumley said...

Thanks for sharing those-they're very cool!

Thrift Shop Romantic said...

Araceli- Glad you enjoyed.

Paula- Nice to have you stop by, and thanks!!