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There are some of us who like to create quite an authentic 1940’s Christmas theme and there are others that would love to, but either cannot get the décor or their partners aren’t into the same ideals. I personally like the authentic and then pretend I am in some 1940’s Hollywood blockbuster instead and blitz the tree with more décor than branches.
I decided to delve through my own Christmas decorations and see what modern marvels were around too, to give a vintage effect but with a modern twist for those who still enjoy the 21st Century!
Let us start with the 1940’s basis. In the war, Christmas was still a very important celebration. It was an obvious morale booster and time for family, remembrance, tradition and joviality, even to those serving in the forces! Whether they were decorating palm trees, or making paper chains for an Anderson Shelter, the creativity was fantastic! Some people were lucky enough to have some glass decorations. The classic bauble has been around since the 1800’s and they were certainly in plentiful supply in the 1900’s. They were still being produced throughout the war, but the silver used to colour and line the insides was limited, applied very thinly or stopped all together. Tinsel was a big thing in the war, in plentiful supply and helped make the tree look full, even when only a few decorations were available. In fact, my Grandfather remembered collecting silver foil strips called ‘Window’ from fields. This was dropped by allied and axis planes to confuse radar signals…but Grandma, Ma and Aunt used it to decorate instead!
There were some patriotically themed decorations made in WW2. I remember seeing a Santa Claus riding a red, white and blue bomb, but the Third Reich seemed to have gone all out with Swastika and SS themed glass baubles and tree toppers. They even had hand grenade shaped ones.
Cotton wool was often used as snow and would be placed on tree branches or suspended from the ceiling on string. Christmas cards were also put onto the tree as part of the décor and letters too! I think this is a wonderful idea and there are still greeting cards around if you search online or in antique shops. WWI silk cards would look wonderful. I popped a couple of WW2 Christmas cards, an Art Deco one and another that had been printed out from an online design. It really does add interest and I could imagine this being done with postcards and old family photos.
You can find clear plastic baubles at www.my-accessories.co.uk that you can place your own photo inside. They cost about £3 each and look great! I got some last year and printed off a wedding picture of Mr Mew’s parents, a photo of his sons in military uniform and one of our wonderful friends Don and Steph in America. I am planning to purchase more so that I can do the same for other family and friend’s photos. Imagine creating a ‘family tree’ Christmas tree with all your ancestors photo baubles. I think that would be marvelous! Another great idea is the 2 part bauble, which has 2 hollow pieces. I stupidly bought these at an inflated price from a craft fair, but they are available very cheaply from Ebay in packs of 8 or more! I will be creating little scenes with mine and giving a couple as Christmas gifts. Here are a few ideas for yours: Was your relation in the service? Why not pop in a photo, a military patch and a few buttons! Or get some PVA glue, mix in some light gravel and pop some in to the bottom of one of the halves. Let it dry and harden and do the same amount the other side. Glue on a toy soldier (lead or plastic) and maybe even some moss as a bush or even a little tree (check railway model suppliers for inspiration!) and add some dried coconut or fake snow. Seal it up and enjoy!
You can also find miniatures or Dinky Toys of Spitfires and Jeeps to suspend from tree branches as decorations or make peg people! Dotcomgift shop have a great set of Queen’s Guard soldiers of elves with full instructions. I used UHU glue as sometime PVA doesn’t work so well, but after this, why not try your hand at some soldiers or sailors with some felt from a haberdashery? They make great gifts too!
You will see that I have an array of tin bird houses on this tree. These are very in fashion right now and I remember seeing them last year too. Quite shabby chic, the vintage prints fit in well and although an odd thing to accessorise a festive tree with, it gave me inspiration for their use. Get one for each family member and each leave a special note for that person in their own little bird house. Come Christmas day, every one (or even if it is purely a couple) will have something lovely, romantic or funny to read. Such things bring people closer and sometimes it is easier to say what you feel in a letter rather than face to face. Father’s telling daughters how proud they are of their achievements…Wives telling husbands that their snoring is like listening to the Philharmonic Orchestra and not at all annoying…You could even make some felt birds to go inside!
I made a load of really simple felt decorations that are sooooo easy to do. I decided on patriotic red, white and blue because at the time, all you could get was gold, red and green themes. All you do is trace around a cup so that you have a perfect circle, you need 2 of these, sandwich a loop of ribbon or string for hanging and either glue around the edge or stitch. Remember to leave a small gap and then stuff. I use cheap Argos pillows for stuffing. £2.99 for 2 and the wadding is super soft and also great for the cotton wool snow! For the decoration, you can cut out basic shapes of holly leaves and berries, reindeer or whatever else and glue them on. I created an RAF one, but can’t find the blasted thing, so apologies for not showing it. Next year I will do a piece purely dedicated on creating baubles and decorations with templates!
On to present wrapping. I am all for the brown paper and string method, but for those who like a bit of colour or interest there are many things you can do. Repros of the 1940’s newspapers were created by the likes of the Daily Mail some years back, and these are still around in jumble sales, or you could photocopy some originals to use as gift wrap. Look out for vintage cigar and chocolate boxes or even old toffee tins with great artwork on the front. These all look fantastic under a tree and can also form part of the present! This works for handkerchiefs and silk scarves too. Luckily, the vintage style is still in this season, so there are also some kitchy and retro gift wraps and boxes about in the shops. The little Panettone boxes in my photo are a superb for smaller gifts or a big slice of Christmas cake to take home and come in a set of 3!
So there you have it. I hope I have given you some inspiration and get in touch with queries. If you try any of these ideas, why not send me photos? Merry Christmas my darling Catnips, and don’t forget that all important mistletoe!