Old-Fashioned Victorian Christmas - Victoriana Magazine
Christmas is a holiday that inspires nostalgia to many.
Having an old fashioned Christmas tree is one way families celebrate warm comforting memories of their earlier years.
While the use of Christmas trees originated in Europe, by the 1880’s the custom was popular in the United States.
Although what one thinks of as an old fashioned Christmas tree may vary to each person, to me it comes from early childhood and from watching old Christmas specials on TV.
To me, an “Old Fashioned Christmas Tree” is not a live Christmas tree with wooden antique looking toys or home-made craft decorations, as it is to so many others.
Although decades before my time, to me it’s a 1940’s Christmas tree. These trees are seen by all on black and white movies such as “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Christmas in Connecticut”, etc.
Do you remember seeing the wide tree with its outstretched arms, the screw in lights, and all the tinsel?
My Christmas tree consists of the old screw in Christmas lights, and tinsel. Old fashioned Christmas decorations are mostly large tarnished glass ornaments. There are not any newer ornaments or decorations to disrupt the harmony.
The original cardboard boxes are so fragile as are the ornaments. Thankfully today they still make replacement bulbs and now they also sell replacement bubbler lights in reproduction boxes using the “Noma” name.
Bubbler lights were manufactured to replace real wax candles on the tree.
All these old fashioned Christmas decorations are great but more important than the decorations is the TREE ITSELF. The tree must be an old fashioned Christmas tree style.
To get a true period feel, Old fashioned Christmas tree decorations WITHOUT the type of Christmas tree used during the era, would look like Victorian ornamentation on a ranch house.
During the period, the Balsam Christmas trees were most popular. They were very skimpy with giant spaces between the branches. Hideous by today’s standards.
They are what some now refer to as a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. This is how the trees were naturally and that is what was available for sale.
Well I would say during the 1980’s or so, the public began to prefer fuller trees. To satisfy this request the Christmas tree growers started to shear their trees in the summer to make them grow fuller.
This worked fine because most people were using small low wattage Christmas lights, smaller ornaments, and replaced the use of tinsel with garland.
By the early 1990’s the traditional old fashioned Christmas tree was not to be found.
Today there are many varieties of Christmas trees including the original old fashioned Balsam. All these trees however are now more like landscape trees.
They are as thick as hedges for buyers consider a thicker fuller tree a better specimen. The difficulty of hanging ornaments on a full tree is no longer even considered.
What do you do if you want an old-style tree?
For me there was an exhaustive state wide search. This was very important especially when my house was open to the public for a Historic House Tour during Christmas. The tree had to be perfect.
The solution was to purchase a large 30 foot or so tree and use the top. The top was cut off for me at the tree farm.
At times I found some neglected trees in the back of tree farms I could use. At the Christmas tree farms I was told that a full hedge like tree is what people expect – what people now look for in a Christmas tree has evolved. I however refuse to give in!
You’re probably thinking that a full tree could be thinned out by cutting out some of the branches. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way – I wish it did.
My tree is purchased about two weeks before Christmas and decorated about a week before.
I live in a private home. I am not a retail business that needs to decorate in October to try to get people to spend money.
I also believe in keeping the Christmas season alive until February 2nd (Candlemas day). Just because the stores in the mall take down their decorations at New Years I refuse to feel intimidated by them or the majority of the population cleaning up early.
I keep my house cool and the tree is very fresh up to the end.