Boomers Participated in Holiday Trends and Traditions

Once Thanksgiving was in the rearview mirror, it was time for boomers to ramp up Christmas decorating around the house. In Mister Boomer’s household, the Christmas tree was not purchased until mid-December (it was always a live tree in his house); but there were still decorating jobs inside the house that began the weekend after Thanksgiving, starting with Mister B and his brother wiping the dust off the family advent wreath. This wreath marked the days until Christmas with a candle for each of the preceding four weeks. The one Mister B’s family had was a rectangular black metal base with holders for four candles on the corners; between the red candles were intertwined scrub-brush-fake pine branches and pine cones that were painted with “snow.” It served mainly as a decorative centerpiece on the dining room table. Candles were only lit on each successive Sunday with an accompanying prayer, before the family meal. Space was at a premium, so the candles were extinguished and the unit moved off the table once the meal was served.

Another sure sign that Christmas was on the way was the annual covering of the inside of the front door with either aluminum foil or wrapping paper. For more than a decade this was the designated spot where Christmas cards would be Scotch taped. In the years when Mister B’s mom was in a decorating mood, wide red ribbon was added to make it look like a giant gift package before any cards were put on it. Inevitably, there were certain relatives and family friends who made sure their Christmas card greeting arrived a day or two after Thanksgiving.

Much more fun for Mister B and his siblings was applying Glass Wax stencils to the living room window. This decoration trend lasted for a few years. While the exact timeframe of when this was done escapes Mister B, online sources put its popularity in the 1950s. As current YouTube videos can attest, Mister B, Brother Boomer and his sister each added to the window by dabbing the wax onto a selected stencil with a sponge dipped in the wax. Mister B remembers Santa stencils, reindeer, ornaments, Christmas trees, wreaths and candles. Mister B’s mom watched over the process, stopping the kids from filling the window with stencils. She was directing her vision of an overall design that would be visible from the street.

At one point in his family history, Mister Boomer’s mother took to making some do-it-yourself Christmas decorations. The most successful of these was a wreath fashioned from dry cleaner bags, which were cut into strips and tied around a coat hanger that had been bent into a circular shape. The addition of a red bow completed this mid-century modern design. Mister B does not remember if she found the instructions in a Good Housekeeping article or got the idea from a neighborhood friend.

As the days passed and Christmas approached, Mister Boomer and Brother Boomer were assigned the tasks of getting the boxes of Christmas ornaments out from the basement storage area, and most importantly, untangling the strands of Christmas lights and testing them. It was a bulb-by-bulb search for burn outs, since the lights in the 1950s and early ’60s did not light if one bulb was loose or burned out.

Other house decorations appeared in some years, usually in the form of gold or silver garland festooned along the top molding on the wood panel wall where the sunburst clock resided.

In mid-December, when the Christmas tree was purchased, Mister B’s father untied it from the roof of the car and brought it to the backyard. There, he sawed off a bit of the base of the tree trunk, then hauled it down the stairs to the basement and placed it in a bucket of water. It would remain there for at least twenty-four hours so it could get acclimated to the indoor temperature, which was cooler in the basement, and not immediately drop its needles. Usually on the next day, Mister Boomer and Brother Boomer would help move the furniture, then lay down the tree skirt base and the tree stand in the corner of the room by the front window. Once Mister B’s father got the tree up the stairs and into place in the stand, it was usually up to Mister B to crawl under the tree to secure the stand screws into the trunk base and fill the stand with water. Full decorating could commence after Mister Boomer’s father ran the lights around the tree.

How about you, boomers? What holiday trends of the 1950s and ’60s did your family embrace? When did your interior holiday decorating begin?