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We are used to fashion changing. What once was out of style is now in style, and what is in style will soon be on the sale rack. Fashion ebbs and flows, circles back and forges ahead. Thanks to the fashion industry, our personal styles change with time. And, just like fashion, Christmas trees, and how they are decorated, changes with the decades. Because we love Christmas ornaments, we love to see how Christmas trees have changed over the years, and we want to highlight two specific decades with a lot of retro style: the 70s and 80s. They were distinct decades with a strong sense of style. 

Tinsel

Christmas trees from the 70s and 80s still featured tinsel. A defining decoration of the 50s and 60s, and it was an item with staying power. The glittering icicle effect made up for the pain of it getting wound around the vacuum cleaner six months after Christmas. The beauty of it was worth the pain. The overall shimmering look of tinsel was impossible to duplicate, and tinsel is now made from plastic because it was banned in 1972 because it contained lead. 

Reflectors

Another vintage feature of a retro Christmas tree are reflectors. These beautiful ornaments heralded from a time of open flame candles as lights on the trees to bend and cast a more sparkly light from the candle. When the electric mini lights became the standard way of lighting a Christmas tree, colorful reflector ornaments continued to do their job, and bounce light and make the tree sparkle. Though they have a very mid-century modern vibe, decorating the tree with colorful reflection ornaments in the 70s and 80s still happened because so often ornaments are passed down from generation to generation. Though Old World Christmas makes our own fabulous reflection ornaments, the vintage reflectors from the 50s are now a rare find. 

Garland

Moms of the 80s got smart, and even though tinsel was still around, silver, gold and colored garland started to wind around trees in sweeping boughs replacing the vacuum-jamming tinsel. Plaid ribbon or pre-tied bows wound around or were tied to individual branches, and for the overachievers, sprays of dried babies breath flowers were tucked into the green branches for a very “country prairie chic” look. 

Salt Dough

A common ornament from the 80s was made from salt dough. It was an easy and inexpensive dough to make (flour, salt and water), and it was crafted into all types of festive ornaments. Usually salt dough ornaments deteriorated over time, so if they were finished with polyurethane or epoxy, they would last longer. It was common for salt dough ornaments to feature little accents—like a pair of glasses, a pipe, lantern or sled—and many times the ornaments were personalized with a name and date because salt dough could be written on without the pen bleeding or smearing. 

Retro Ornaments

Because toys were less digital, less electronic, many ornaments from the 70s and 80s featured vintage toys—rocking horses, nutcrackers, teddy bears, snowmen and building blocks. Colorful glass balls have been standard fare for Christmas trees over the decades; shining glass Christmas ornament balls could be found on trees in the 70s and 80s. You just hoped one didn’t fall and shatter near your bare feet. We have an entire collection of retro ornaments featuring all the best distinguishing characteristics from the 70s and 80s. Including mom’s vacuum cleaner

Christmas tree style changes, but one thing doesn’t: Christmas around the tree creates decades of memories for young and old. However it’s decorated—if mom hasn’t changed her style from the 70s or 80s—spending Christmas with those you love (no matter their style) is the best way to celebrate Christmas. 

January 05, 2022 by Rachael Mitchell

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.

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