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Here’s What Christmas Looked Like in the 1950s

Experience the joys of a retro 1950s Christmas, from aluminum Christmas trees to bubble lights and Barbie.

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This was taken by my parents at Christmas 1957 at our home in DeWitt New York. It is of my sister Helen and myself when I was 9 and my sister was 13. We always had a wonderful Christmas and topped it with mom's cooked turkey dinner. Dad took over carving the turkey.via John Hafer/Reminisce

Christmas Dinner

Though menus shifted as new products came on the market, holiday fare always included recipes passed down through the generations. And the main course centered on an impressive cut of meat. Green bean casserole, invented in 1955 by Campbell Soup Co., remains a popular addition to holiday menus. And in the post-war 1950s, cream cheese, bacon and spinach were the foundation of appetizers and side dishes. John Hafer shared this photo of Christmas in 1957 at their home in DeWitt, New York. Try these vintage Christmas recipes for a classic, retro menu.

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aluminum christmas treeCourtesy Mary Ann Gove/Reminisce

Aluminum Christmas Trees


The aluminum Christmas tree was introduced in 1958. More than a million of the trees were welcomed into American homes until they fell out of favor in the mid-1960s. Mary Ann Gove of Cottonwood, Arizona, shared this photo of her Uncle Lewis and Aunt Dot’s aluminum tree. If families chose a real tree, they covered it in glittering tinsel. We love these awesome vintage Christmas decorations!

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Bubble light tree 1Courtesy Carolyn von Gohren/Reminisce

Bubble Lights


Bubble lights were all the rage in the late 1940s and ’50s. “This bubble light tree is among our most cherished Christmas decorations,” writes Carolyn von Gohren of Olympia, Washington. “My grandfather gave it to my parents in the early 1950s. The 27-inch tree has 18 lights that ‘bubble’ once their liquid reaches a certain temperature.” These Christmas decorating ideas will make your home merry and bright.

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Sheboygan_parade3Courtesy Joe Kleefisch/Reminsice

Christmas Parades


Millions watched Christmas parades showcasing the amazing balloon confections of Pittsburgh’s Jean Gros in the late 1940s and into the ’50s. Inspired by the giant balloons at Macy’s parade in New York City, Gros fashioned smaller versions for parades in small towns. This 1952 parade in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, featured more than 40 balloons. Eat these Christmas snacks while watching the parade.

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Dec.25 1959 _ Christmas morning with my brothers Joe & Jeff with their 6 shooters and I am armed with a jet and a car to round out the unbeatable posse . pic was taken in Columbus Ohio at our childhood home where I lived at till I was 11 years old.Courtesy Greg Groom/Reminisce

Top Toys


Many new toys were introduced in the 1950s. Consumers went nutty over Silly Putty when the novelty item debuted in 1950. When Hasbro introduced Mr. Potato Head in 1952, there was no potato—kids had to use a real spud. In 1953, Jack Odell learned that his daughter couldn’t bring toys to school unless they were small enough to fit inside a matchbox. His employer, Lesney Products, went on to sell millions of the die-cast metal vehicles. Play-Doh showed up in 1956, the Frisbee (originally dubbed the Pluto Platter) in 1957 and the Hula Hoop in 1958. Greg Groom of Columbus, Ohio, shared this photo of Christmas morning in 1959, when he unwrapped a jet and a car. Enjoy these delicious recipes while you’re unwrapping Christmas gifts.

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dolls presents children girlsCourtesy Barbara Strampe Gjertson/Reminisce

Beloved Dolls


Dolls still stand atop many a child’s Christmas list. But the kind of dolls they’ve desired over the decades have been as varied as Barbie’s wardrobe. The Vogue Doll Company’s Ginny dolls, named after creator Jennie Grave’s daughter, Virginia, took girls by storm during the 1950s. Sweet Sue dolls, made by the American Character Doll Co., were also popular. But since the 1959 launch of Barbie, the doll world has never been the same. Sisters Vicki, Barbara and Jacqueline Strampe all received dolls from Santa Claus in 1952. Here are holiday gifts for kids who love to cook.

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christmas family gatheringCourtesy Amy Armes/Reminisce

Large Family Gatherings


In those days, when most family members lived within a few miles of each other, large holiday gatherings were the norm. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all assembled together, as in this family photo from 1951. “My grandma (center) has hosted Christmas dinner in her farmhouse for more than 60 years,” says Amy Armes of Bright, Ontario. “She’s cooked turkeys as large as 49 pounds.” These recipes will remind you of Christmas at Grandma’s. 

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bed time stories, christmas Courtesy Deanna Harmon/Reminisce

Bedtime Stories


For some families, Christmas Eve wouldn’t be the same without a special story. After hanging stockings and putting out Santa’s snack, their mother, Rosemary, read the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, recalls daughter Deanna Harmon of Goodyear, Arizona. Deanna snapped this photo of her mom with younger siblings, Stephen and Trudy, in 1951, in Dennison, Illinois. This is what kids leave for Santa on Christmas Eve around the world.

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christmas tree Courtesy Mary Beth Fulton/Reminisce

Midnight Mass


Mary Beth Fulton of Lincoln, Nebraska, says her family never missed midnight mass on Christmas Eve in the 1950s. “My mom would fix up my hair in pin curls and do the same for my sisters. We’d wear new dresses with black patent leather shoes. After a traditional fish dinner, Dad asked me and my siblings—Judy, Janice and Terry—to kneel in front of our Christmas tree and say a prayer. Then we’d go to St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church, where there’d be folding chairs in the aisle to handle the overflow crowd.”

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christmas treeCourtesy Gary Long/Reminisce

Festive Attire


It was common for people to dress up for Christmas in the 1950s. Even the trees wore their best. “Our tree, always a Scotch pine, was trimmed with red lights, red shiny balls and Ivory Snow laundry detergent flakes that had been whipped and layered on the branches to look like new-fallen snow,” says Gary Long of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. In 1952, Gary’s grandmother, Mary, was overwhelmed by the gift of a diamond ring. Grandpa Delbert could not afford one when they he proposed in 1922. Dress up your tree with these food ornaments.

Originally Published in Reminisce

Lori Vanover
Lori has been a writer and editor for 16 years, fueled by plenty of coffee and chocolate. She hopes to retire someday and become a hot pepper farmer, cake decorator or barbecue pitmaster.

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