Christmas Through the Decades: Best Christmas Traditions From 1900 to Today

Trends come and go. Sometimes they leave something that sticks, but trends ebb and flow leaving funny memories and photos in their wake. We’re thankful Christmas is more than a tradition. But even during our years of creating beautiful glass-blown Christmas ornaments, we’ve watched Christmas trends and traditions fizzle and fade. Here are some Christmas traditions from different decades, starting in 1900, that took center stage and either fizzled or morphed into something we still celebrate today. 

1900: Advent Calendars

It’s thought that the Advent calendar tradition started in the early 1900s, the printed version invented originally by German-born Gerard Lang. His mother let him have a cookie each day to count down to Christmas, and from that delicious memory he created a traditional paper advent calendar with doors to open each day. 

1910: Christmas Tree Lights

With the invention of the electric light, eventually they were shrunk a bit and strung together to make the first version of strung electric Christmas tree lights. This new convenience became more popular in the 1910s, opening up more decor possibilities. Christmas lights greatly reduced the chances of a Christmas living room bon fire by eliminating the way people had been lighting their trees: candles. 

1920: Jazzy Christmas

The roaring 20s brought an explosion of revolutionary jazz music, and the easy, casual sounds influenced Christmas music during this decade. Though the family would still gather around a goose, turkey or stuffed-hen dinner, they might hear some of their favorite Christmas carols given a twist of jazz. You can use any of our instrument ornaments like trumpets or piano ornaments to represent this time. 

1930: Cookies & Milk

With the Great Depression effecting the national economy in the 1930s, a simple, but sacrificial, tradition began. Families started to leave a plate of cookies and a glass of milk out for Santa, as a sign of appreciation and gratefulness during tight financial times for most people. This tradition stuck and Santa (and parents!) is so grateful for the treat.

1940: Artificial Trees

Though artificial trees we not invented in the 1940s, because of World War II artificial Christmas trees became more popular in the 1940s. Many men were deployed, and many supplies were rationed, so artificial trees made sense for the decade. They still make sense for their simplicity and convenience for so many!

1950: Cookie Swaps

A tradition that continues today is a Christmas cookie swap. A new activity and tradition in the 1950s women would gather and exchange cookies, leaving with a tray featuring variety and delight. We think this tradition is a sweet one! 

1960: The Nutcracker

Though the Russian ballet had been performing the Nutcracker ballet for decades, it dramatically grew in popularity in the US in the 1960s. The San Francisco Ballet company performed on Christmas Eve in 1944, but it was about 15 years later that it became a Christmas staple in America. 

1970: Sears Christmas Catalog

The inch-thick Sears Christmas catalog was poured over by many American kids in the 70s. Pages were dog eared, circled, ripped out and parents were badgered, reminded, and hinted to for months before Christmas. Though the Sears Christmas catalog that existed in the 70s doesn’t get mailed out any longer, it brings nostalgia to any kid who lived through that decade. 

1980: Ugly Sweaters

Any good ugly sweater today has its origins in the 80s. They were thick, oversized and sparkled with a huge array of Christmas characters and designs. Finding an authentic ugly sweater from the 80s is every millennial’s dream, and sometimes the best finds are discovered in mom and dad’s current closet. 

1990: Wonderful Life

Though It’s A Wonderful Life first aired in 1947, it wasn’t until 1994 that this Christmas classic was acquired exclusively by NBC and USA. Now it’s played faithfully in households across the country each Christmas. 

2000: Elf on the Shelf

Love it or hate it, the Elf invaded US households in the 2000s, and has never left. As a way to manipulate encourage the kids to be good for Santa, the naughty Elf, usually up to no good himself, is a visual reminder of what not to do until Santa arrives on Christmas. 

2010: Grand and Gold

It seemed as though the 2010 decade was one of grand and gold ornaments. Whether modern or traditional, the bigger the better and bonus points for all Christmas decor to be gold dipped.

No matter your favorite Christmas tradition through the decade, we hope that Old World Christmas is part of your yearly Christmas celebration. Our ornaments shine through during dark days and act as a reminder of days past. 

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Written by

Rachael Mitchell

Rachael Mitchell is a freelance writer based in Seattle, Washington, and has over 15 years of writing experience. She’d never be able to pick just one favorite ornament, but narrowed it down to the S’more and Tennis Ball. She always looks forward to s’mores in the summer with friends and family adding gourmet ingredients, and played 4 years of college tennis in the mid-west.


I would Love a Bloodhound ornament for my Christmas Tree! Nobody ever has Bloodhound decorations, I hope you guys are the first! I love the excellent quality and detail of your ornaments😍

Shelley Hollister

I really wish you would develop/design a couple more ornaments related to reading/books as they make a perfect gift for book club members .

gail barbeau

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