Vintage Wisdom: Have an Old-Style Christmas

December 9th, 2010

Toronto blogger Veronica Cizmar runs Some Like It Vintage, an online boutique and consignment shop, which donates 10 percent of its sales to help women who have suffered domestic violence. Veronica also volunteers regularly at Toronto’s The Redwood women’s shelter. We asked Veronica to give us some tips on how to host an authentic vintage-style Christmas, and she came up with three different, but equally delightful, themes to give your holidays a timeless touch of nostalgia.

Images from RetroChristmasCardCompany.com, "Life," and "Saturday Evening Post."

Images from RetroChristmasCardCompany.com, “Life,” and “Saturday Evening Post.”


Theme No. 1: An Emily Post Dinner Party

Let us, for the moment, consider an Emily Post vintage Christmas. Ms. Post, with her irascible wit and no-nonsense approach to etiquette, provides in immense detail, how to give a perfectly elegant dinner party. Here is an excerpt of her rules:

A hostess must show each of her guests equal and impartial attention. Also, although engrossed in the person she is talking to, she must be able to notice anything amiss that may occur. The more competent her servants, the less she need be aware of details herself. No matter what happens, if all the china in the pantry falls with a crash, she must not appear to have heard it. No matter what goes wrong she must cover it as best she may, and at the same time cover the fact that she is covering it.

Photo from "Life" magazine.

Photo from “Life” magazine.

To live up to Ms. Post’s impeccable standards, polish your finest antique silverware and bring out your best Waterford crystal. Don a gorgeous 1930s evening gown or dapper tuxedo tails. Converse as if you are in a grand dining room using phrases such as, “..we’re invited to the Wordsworths’ country home”, “…skiing in the Alps this year….”, “…more champagne please…” It’s all oh-so-chic, but maybe a little too formal.

Theme No. 2: Norman Rockwell Christmas Eve

Santa on the front of "The Saturday Evening Post."

Santa on the front of “The Saturday Evening Post.”

Perhaps Norman Rockwell is more your vintage style. This theme evokes warm and fuzzy feelings of Christmas carolers, sleigh rides, and Old Saint Nick himself preparing for the eve, as children write wish lists, their dolls, model trains, and wooden toys wrapped in colorful packages under the tree. Copious amounts of hot mulled cider and shortbread cookies on Christmas plates should be available for all.

Living as I do in the cold Northern Canadian winters, a nostalgic holiday party would not be complete without a crackling fireplace and sitting down to watch the classic movie “White Christmas” after dinner. For your guests, this would be the time for a well-spiked egg-nog poured into vintage crystal goblets.

As your guests make themselves comfortable, they’re sure to notice all those vintage lights, ornaments, and decor that you picked up for a song at the local secondhand store: The orange glow of your vintage celluloid electric Mr. & Mrs. Santa Claus set, the string of bells that are looking a little worn but sparkle in the light, or that nativity scene that is missing a wise man.

Theme No. 3: Tiki Holiday Luau

Had enough of the snow and cold? Transport yourself to a sunny island. If you are into retro, a casual holiday such as a vintage Tiki-themed Christmas can do wonders for those suffering from seasonal affective disorder. Don’t forget that much of the world celebrates Christmas in a hot climate so change into a vintage swimsuit if you so desire. (Can you say “Mele Kalikimaka”?) According to Shellbelle’s Tiki Hut Blog, there are strict rules for a retro Tiki Hut gathering.

  1. Remove shoes.
  2. Fix cold drink.
  3. Get sunglasses.
  4. Sit down.
  5. Relax.

Sing or play ukulele along with your Hi-Fi to an Elvis Christmas carol on a 45 RPM record. Your drinks should be in coconut shells with skewers of pineapple and tiny little paper umbrellas. Don’t forget the classic maraschino cherries as garnish! Hawaiian aloha shirts or floral dresses paired with Santa hats are the required attire.

1960s green shift dress with spotted collar.

1960s green shift dress with spotted collar.

Even if creating a Polynesian-island fantasy seems too out there for your family, I hope you have been inspired to add a little more “vintage” to your holidays this year. You probably already have a retro touch, just by using all those same Christmas angel and ornaments year after year (yes, even the one your kid made out of Lifesavers in third grade). Take it up a notch, and promise yourself you’ll wear green—one of the colors of the season. It’s irresistibly cheery.

Or perhaps you’d prefer to wear your 1980s acrylic holiday sweater, like they do at Ugly Sweater Parties, or listen to nostalgic Christmas songs (yes, even yours, Burl Ives) on 78 RPM vinyl. However you decide to do it, may you have a very merry, very vintage-y Christmas!

One comment so far

  1. gaylan Says:

    I have a collection of mechanical figures I bought from the Eaton stores in the late 1980′s . I was told they came from Lord & Taylors in New York originally. I remember seeing them in the Eatons windows in my youth. I am trying to date when they were made. Some have hand written letters L&T WINDOW # 7. Others have a stamp saying Union Made-United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners of America, May 18 1922; District of New York. They are in remarkable condition. They stand approximately 34″ tall on top of a 12″ mechanical box. There are three different themes . The scenes were a Victorian Ice Skating party, a Gathering of Fairies and a Formal Edwardian Dress Ball. They are created in the style of the traditional Lord & Taylor mechanical windows. They have elongated torsos and very delicate and intricate faces made of plaster. I would greatly appreciate any knowledge of their history you might share . I could send photos if you are interested. Thank you . sincerely, Gaylan Smith -Kenton


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