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16 Vintage Christmas Decorations That’ll Take You Back to Grandma’s

Throw back to the good ol' days with vintage Christmas decorations.

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nativity scene with hand-colored figures made out of woodalexhstock/Getty Images

Nativity Scenes

Remember being a wide-eyed kid looking at a perfectly arranged nativity scene? The brightly painted figurines of the three wise men, Mary, Joseph and, of course, baby Jesus, brought a story to life in living color. It’s surprisingly easy to find a vintage-inspired nativity scene even now, along with sleek and contemporary nativity scenes like this.

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NutcrackerSteve Hilchey/Getty Images

Nutcrackers

According to German lore, nutcracker soldiers were supposed to protect the house from evil, making them the perfect decoration for the holiday season. You can find hand-painted figurines at antique stores or on eBay—or check Etsy for a more modern version, like this nutcracker planter.

Bring more German cheer to the holidays with some traditional Christmas stollen, too.

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Directly Above Shot Of Eating Utensils On Dining Table During ChristmasMargaret Johnson / EyeEm/Getty Images

Christmas China

Most of us have treasured memories of holiday dishes decorated with Christmas motifs, with each plate, cup and bowl handed carefully through generations. You can find vintage-inspired sets at Macy’s or start fresh with a contemporary (and cute!) set like this.

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SANTA FE, NM - DECEMBER 30, 2017: A copy of singer Bing Crosby's 1945 Decca label album 'Merry Christmas' for sale in an antique shop in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The album includes Crosby's signature song 'White Christmas', the best-selling single of all-time. The album has sold more than 15 million copies and is the second best-selling Christmas album of all-time. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)Robert Alexander/Getty Images

Vintage Holiday Records

“Have yourself a merry little Christmas…” If the dulcet tones of Bing Crosby aren’t ringing through the house, is it really Christmas? It’s time to break out the vintage records and set up some steaming hazelnut hot chocolate on these quirky upcycled vinyl coasters.

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Christmas decoration for sale on advent market. Decorative miniature city houses. Austria,Salzburg.st-design/Getty Images

Ceramic Christmas Villages

In the 18th century, Europeans began to expand their nativity scenes to include more than the main characters, and two centuries later, Christmas villages became beloved holiday decor across America. Also known as a putz (again, credited to the Germans), we love this modern-day paper version on them that brightened up with glitter, LED lights and any other decorations.

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Train on Christmas Treeloops7/Getty Images

Christmas Tree Trains

No one’s really sure how Christmas trains got started, but some credit to the popularity of model railroads in the 1900s. Since these were popular gift items, enthusiastic children often set them up around the Christmas tree, creating a tradition that has now spanned over a century. Set up this absolutely magical Harry Potter train set around your tree.

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A table decorated with vintage bottlebrush Christmas trees.Cyndi Monaghan/Getty Images

Bottlebrush Trees

Bottlebrush trees probably started out as part of the putz scenes under Christmas trees, and no holiday season at Grandma’s was complete without them! While these vintage mini trees will always take us right back to childhood celebrations, we’re updating our look with pretty metallic bottlebrush trees.

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Shiny Brite Ornaments

The best part about these ornaments is all in the name, of course! Christmas was incomplete without seeing these glass baubles sparkling on the tree, though they lost some of their shine after the 1960s. You can still find boxes of vintages Shiny Brite ornaments on Etsy, as well as brand-new Shiny Brite ornament sets.

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Close-up of Christmas tree with popcorn-cranberry garlandJeffrey Coolidge/Getty Images

Popcorn Cranberry Garland

Yet another German tradition made its way to American shores in the 16th century with the popcorn cranberry garland. Settlers often made their own decorations, and these became a popular Christmas ornament across the country. If you’re not up for the time-consuming task of creating one by hand, this faux-popcorn garland would make a great addition to your Christmas tree.

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Close-Up Of Snow Globe During ChristmasLarry Sinanto / EyeEm/Getty Images

Snow Globes

There’s very little that matches the magic of shaking a snow globe to see flakes of glitter appear around Santa and his reindeer—it’s like magic! This Christmas village snow globe steps it up a notch with a moving train and music.

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Vintage large Christmas lights tangled up.mscornelius/Getty Images

Bubble-Lites

Did we hear vintage Christmas lights? (No, really, we always swore we could hear a little buzz from these.) These big retro bulbs were the original fairy lights, but were phased out after a few decades of popularity when we discovered the fluid inside could cause poisoning when inhaled. Eek! For a safe update, check out these colorful Christmas lights.

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Empty Stockings Hung On Fireplace On Christmas Evemonkeybusinessimages/Getty Images

Christmas Stockings

Some of our best memories involve waking up to break into the Christmas stocking (as if we hadn’t already snuck down and peeked the night before)! While the classic needlepoint stockings (made with love by Grandma) never go out of style, these pretty patterned ones are great if your decor tends more towards the contemporary.

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Christmas gingerbread houses with light from the windows standing in a row holiday background.Olga Chetvergova/Getty Images

Gingerbread Houses

We can’t really blame Hansel and Gretel for trying to eat the witch’s house. It was probably tasty! Another German import dating back to the 1500s, gingerbread house kits are now a beloved part of preparing for Christmas. Honestly, when it comes to these, we’d say don’t mess with a classic, but this gingerbread barn might change our mind. Of course, you can always build your own at home, too.

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Close up of Christmas Tree decorated with antique glass baubles and coloured lights in kitsch retro 70s stylePoppyPixels/Getty Images

Tinsel

Pieces of shiny, feathery tinsel were a Christmas tree staple before we realized it contained lead, which made it a hazard for pets who might chew on it. For maximum (safe) sparkle, look for a vintage aluminum Christmas tree!

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Wooden horse in Christmas decorationsJane Khomi/Getty Images

Rocking Horses

Once a status symbol, rocking horses eventually became part of the Christmas lore and decor. This children’s toy usually featured the bright pastel colors or light wood tones that were popular at the time. If you’re not up for a full-size rocking horse, these rocking horse tree ornaments will add some nostalgia to your decor.

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Asian boy making paper chainBig Cheese Photo/Getty Images

Paper Chains

Handmade paper chains were a quick and easy way to get some color on the tree, walls, windows and doors—and of course, they made for a great family activity! To recreate these crafts with your children, these pretty paper chains are the best way to deck the halls.

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Amrita Thakkar
Amrita is a writer, poet and amateur photographer who often ends up applying these skills to her one great love: food. You can find her up at 3 a.m. writing, researching the perfect combo for her next grilled cheese or making a more eco-friendly grocery list.

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