Vintage German Christmas Tree Candle Clips

Before electricity made its way into most homes, Christmas trees had the warm glow of candlelight. The candles were attached to the tree branches via little metal clips. Most often they were decorative clips made in Germany, like these shown here.  Since using candles to light your tree is neither practical, nor safe, we don’t recommend bringing back that tradition lightly. (No pun intended!) But that doesn’t mean you can’t safely use these charming bits of Christmas past this holiday. They make wonderful placeholders, with or without candles, at your holiday table.

antique german tree clips as placecard holders

More than that, these vintage and antique Christmas tree clips can be used to display your holiday greeting cards (collectible ephemera and the new ones you receive from family & friends this year), photographs, etc. (As always, I would recommend sliding old or collectible paper in clear sleeves to protect them from the elements.)

christmas tree candle clips display cards

This sort of display would work well on holiday trim around doorways, etc.,; not just on trees.

display vintage ephemera with vintage christmas tree candle clips

In fact, since the designs on these old tree clips vary widely, including non-holiday motifs, like pine-cones, you could use them year round. For example, instead of clothespins on those framed bits of chicken-wire and other rustic ways to show-off photographs.

While I obviously prefer “old” pieces, if you prefer something more industrial (or at least not so shabby chic), there are contemporary clips as well. Whether you opt for old or new, whether you want to light the candles or not, the fact that they still make these tree candle clips means they still make the right size candles too.

Use Vintage Sleds To Carry The Holiday Gifts

I just love the look of old wooden sleds holding the Christmas presents. Sometimes you have more presents than the sled can carry — but a few on the sled looks lovely next to the tree! This is a photo of our display at Exit 55 Antiques.

antique vintage sled holding holiday gifts

Pick & Grin – Christmas Memories – Time to Tear Down the Tree

Pick: I suppose it is time. Time to take down the tree, put all the ornaments in their boxes, until next year. We are the only ones in our ‘group’ who have a live tree. When the kids were small, we’d work on putting it up for a few days. You’d do the lights, the girls would put the ‘unbreakables’ near the bottom and I’d do the top part.

Grin: I remember a few of the early years when our trees were SO crooked that we’d have to wire them to the window hardware. Otherwise, they’d tip over. We got numerous comments , none of them good.

Pick: We have talked about getting an artificial tree, but then you mentioned the ‘limited space’ in our attic. And I truly love the smell of a real tree. A friend has an artificial one and her son-in-law always walks up to it, takes a good sniff and retorts “Ahh, the smell of dust!” I don’t want that from my son-in-laws. (Not that either would be so crass – ha!)

Grin: And then there is the concern of the ornaments. The ones from your grandmother, for example. If you left them on the tree, you would worry until next year if one would be broken when moved around. So, since we have to take it all down and wrap them, we’ll keep the live tree. But is there any way we can eliminate some of those ornaments?

Pick: Each time I pack and unpack I have fond memories. I remember putting that exact angel on our tree-top at home. She has withstood the test of time. And the bird with the tail-feathers, why, that was my grandmother’s and there is precious little from her.

Grin: That is understandable – you’ll always want to keep that one. But what about these poorly-painted ceramic ornaments.? They are a bit tacky on your classy tree. And we have so many to pack away.

Pick: But don’t you remember these? We made them with the kids when they were about 8 or 9 years old! They are very special to me.

Grin: OK then, but these plastic ones can go. They are out of date and very cheap too!

Pick: Now wait a minute – those are the bottom-of-the-tree ornaments. Nicholas, our youngest grandson can still come over and touch things. You know how I want to be a ‘fun grandma.’ And then if our Westie knocks one off when he strolls past, who cares? You need the lesser ones near the bottom.

Grin: Sounds like you have rationale for every one on this tree. But then, I am not surprised. It is the same with your year-round decorations. Everything has a special memory, or makes you smile to recall where you found it or who gave it to you. Someday, the house will just sink slowly into the ground.

Pick: You exaggerate – there is still room in the basement for a few things and the attic has a bit of room.

Grin: Dear, if you started collecting toothpicks, we’d be in trouble. But let’s get back to the tree.

Pick: It will look so darn empty in this room when it is gone. Can you put up an Easter Tree?

Collecting Children’s Books: Lessons In Rabbit & Skunk

Rabbit and Skunk and the Scary Rock, by Carla Stevens (illustrations by Robert Kraus) is one of my fondest childhood reading memories. Of course, I had completely forgotten about this book until I spotted it at one of those church rummage sales where you pay $2 for whatever you can fit into a paper bag. But the instant I saw that cover, it all flooded back — and I neatly snatched it up and put it in my bag.

I was so excited by the find that I was shocked to discover that neither hubby nor the kids had ever heard of what I consider to be a childhood classic! Apparently it’s been out of print for a number of years now. *sigh* (But you can still find cheap copies at at eBay.)

Remembering reading about Rabbit and Skunk and their fright over the scary talking rock is far more delicious than reading it now; sometimes you really can’t go home again. *deep sigh*

But then collecting children’s books isn’t about reading and rereading them — at least not alone by yourself. No, collecting children’s books is about literally holding-on to those precious literary memories, about the tangible connection to those fragile and magical moments of those early joys of reading… We get to hold in our hands again those things we still hold dear in our hearts.

Rabbit and Skunk and the Scary Rock, for those unfamiliar, was published by Scholastic Book Services, so it was a very early reading experience for me. I remember reading and rereading it, the repetition more than that soothing familiarity children seek, but a mastery of the adventure — with each read I could take myself out there and bring myself back again. All by myself! No longer was I held hostage to the schedules and preferences of others; no longer was I stuck to the confines of my room, my house, my world — I could go anywhere, do anything!

And, just as Rabbit and Skunk discovered, big scary things aren’t always what they seem. You just have to muddle through to the end, that’s all.

Thinking of this reminded me of another childhood favorite: The Monster at the End of this Book.

By the time this book came out, I was way past both Sesame Street and Little Golden Books — but I had younger cousins, and they love-loveloved it when I read them the story of silly Grover’s fear of a monster. How could he be afraid of a monster at the end of the book when (spoiler alert!) he is, of course, a monster himself!

One of the reasons I enjoyed reading this book over and over to my younger cousins was because of its similarity to Rabbit and Skunk’s adventure. There’s the silliness, of course, but primarily the books address fear. My understanding of the concept of fear was, as a young reader, closely tied to the fear of reaching the end. The anxiety of “What would they find?!” was sort of a high… And the resolution rather a come-down. Not specifically because it wasn’t terrifying enough or was anti-climactic in anyway, but because all that good stuff was at an end. (In some ways, that hasn’t changed; I still loath for a good book to end.)

I was then left with a choice, do I read it again or select another adventure? (Never was the choice not to read.) What if the new adventure isn’t as good as the old one? …But, if I read the old one again, what might I be missing? Staying in the middle of a great read, looking forward to the miles to go, is always my favorite place to be.

This confusing pull surrounding endings — even those with new beginnings — is what I find myself struggling with each New Year’s Eve.  If I might be allowed a cynical moment here, I suspect most of us feel that way and that’s why drinking alcohol and partying have become de rigueur; we just are too uncomfortable with “Goodbye.” And facing a “Hello,” even after a bad year, is to wonder if we wouldn’t really be better off sticking with the old one…

But, as this year is about to end, I must remind myself of Rabbit, Skunk, Grover, and reading books taught me. Be brave. Big scary things aren’t always what they seem. Whatever you’re going through, it’s better when you have a friend to share it with. You just have to muddle through to the end, that’s all. And then look forward to the next adventure.

After all, you can’t prevent this New Year from arriving anymore than Grover could prevent the end of the book. So you might as well embrace it. Happy New Year, one and all!

Celebrating The Wishbone (In Old Illustration)

‘Tis the season for fabulous holiday meals featuring turkey, and this antique illustration shows the longevity of breaking the wishbone.

This illustration, captioned “If Their Wishes Came True,” was scanned from my copy of Caricature: The Wit & Humor of a Nation in Picture, Song & Story (Illustrated by America’s Greatest Artists).

I’ve only a partial cover of my copy of Caricature; but at a mere $6, I’m not disheartened, for it’s full of fabulous art, quips, and stories. It’s like a time capsule, really. And it’s not just me being sentimental.

Near as I can tell (for there’s no copyright or publication date), this antique book contains “the best of” Leslie-Judge Company publications, such as Leslie’s Weekly and Judge Magazine.

This specific illustration showing a couple breaking the wishbone is credited; copyright, Judge, New York, 1915. However as the corner is torn, I cannot make out the artist’s name.  I’m hoping a more experienced illustration collector can tell us more about who the artist was or may have been… Please post a comment if you’ve any information!

How eBay Is Helping Collectors Get What They Want For The Holidays

In this economy, finding the perfect gift may be easier than affording it; but eBay has good news for those who collect antiques and vintage collectibles — and those who buy antiques and vintage collectibles as holiday gifts.

Ebay now has two new announcements to help making afford gifts more possible.

The first is eBay Group Gifts (Beta). This new program allows you, your friends, your family, &/or your coworkers, to “chip-in” on gifts. To set up a Group Gift, all you need is an eBay and PayPal account -– then anyone with a credit card can chip in. You can even use FaceBook to coordinate the group gift.

If group purchases aren’t your thing (or at least not for every gift), eBay now offers Bill Me Later through PayPal — which, if used between now and November 30, 2010, will get you n$10 back on your first Bill Me Later purchase on eBay.

You can even combine the two, participating in Group Gift and using Bill Me Later for your part of the gift payment!

Christmas is in the Pink

Pink is in for Christmas the past couple of years. Did you know pink for Christmas isn’t a new idea? The first aluminum tree came out in 1958. Since then metallic trees had their time of being popular. I remember seeing them in shiny green, red, silver, white, blue and pink.

I think the new trend to have pink trees comes in part from the warmer weather we have been having at Christmas, also all the people who travel to warmer destinations over the winter, including the Canadian Snowbirds in Florida. They bring the ideas of summer into the Christmas season.

I’ve seen pink flamingos, orange and pink poinsettias and shiny neon pink snowflakes decorating the Christmas trees in stores here. They are very pretty, romantic looking, a change from the traditional red and green.

There are a few places selling the vintage aluminum trees:

Aluminum Christmas Trees

Retro Holiday

Traditions Year Round Holiday Store

Yuletide Expressions (New trees like the vintage silver trees).

Other Resources:

Flickr: Aluminum Christmas Trees

Suite101: Collectible Vintage Aluminum Christmas Trees

ATOM – Aluminum Tree and Ornament Museum

Wikipedia: Aluminum Christmas Tree

CBC Digital Archives: Aluminum Christmas Trees come to Canada (1960)

Felt Projects With Vintage Cookie Cutters

I shared this at my other blog, Things Your Grandmother Knew, but I figured those who collect cookie cutters might be like me, always looking for ways to put them to good use — when not baking.

Because most of my cookie cutters are vintage, I’m still protective of them and am not interested in altering or damaging them; yet their simple & charming shapes seem to beckon to be put to use more often then just to make sweet treats.

I’d long been thinking that cookie cutters would make great templates for simple crafts for kids. So I put it to the test with Destiny, my (then) 12 year old, making felt ornaments. (With the various shapes, these can be used for nearly any holiday decorations.)

The project is simple:

#1 Trace the cookie cutter onto felt with a pen — twice.

(Note: If using patterned felt that’s only got the pattern printed on one side, you’ll need to cut out one piece, then flip it over and trace it onto the patterned felt; otherwise the pieces won’t both be patterned on the ‘outside’.)

#2 Cut out the shapes.

#3 Match up the shapes, then sew them together with embroidery floss using the whip stitch. Start stitching between the two layers of felt, hiding the knot; and stop before stitching all the way around, leaving an opening for the stuffing.

(The whip stitch was a new stitch for Destiny — but she picked it up really fast!)

#4 Stuff with cotton balls (as well as felt scraps from cutting & trimming and left over bits of thread).

#5 Finish sewing & then decorate. Children can make the eyes & other details by sewing on other bits of felt, using knots &/or other sewing stitches, or gluing on ‘google eyes’, pipe cleaners, and whatever other crafty bits you have around the house.

Voila! You have handmade family heirlooms!

Destiny had so much fun, she kept making more of them — for 4 hours. And she plans to continue to make more. (Rather amazing as I had great trouble getting her to finish her latch-hook rug. I think the fact that one of these ornaments can be completed comparatively fast, giving her a sense of satisfaction quickly.)

Other ideas: These do not need to only be Christmas tree ornaments or holiday decorations. They can be shade pulls, key rings, jacket pulls, cellphone &/or purse decorations. If made with just one piece of felt, glue magnets onto the backs and use them to hold up notes and more kids’ art on the refrigerator. The felt shapes also can be used as appliques for patches on clothing, to make pins, or for more complicated sewing projects. Who knows what ideas you and your kids will come up with?

It’s inexpensive too. Felt pieces are (currently at Hobby Lobby) 5 pieces for $1 for solid colors and 2 for $1 for patterned pieces; embroidery floss runs between $1-$2. Everything else (scissors, cotton balls, needle etc.) can be found in the home.

It’s a great simple and inexpensive way to have children make gifts for family and friends, keep them busy and creative on days off from school (and away from video games etc.) as well as to teach them to sew.

Holidays: The Kids’ Table

When I was a kid, our big family gatherings had the traditional kids’ table. At first it was fun to hang out with your cousins, having those chocolate-milk-bubble-blowing-contests without garnering parental stink-eye; but eventually you wanted to age-out of that table and join the grown-ups because you weren’t a kid anymore.

And then one day you did!

christmas-at-the-kids-table We all must have collectively aged-out of the concept of kids’ tables because I’ve noticed lately that the kids’ table has gone the way of the dinosaurs.

Now if there’s a rickety little card table it has a new fancy holiday tablecloth on it instead of last year’s tablecloth and you could find anyone sitting there — just as you’ll find plenty of kids at the regular dinning room table.

And I hate it.

Like every child before me, I couldn’t wait to be deemed an adult and join the grown-ups and now view this as a rite of passage that those younger ought to earn too.

But more than that, as an adult, I long for adult conversation unfettered by the little ears. It’s not that I want or need to swear like a sailor all through dinner, but some topics are not suitable for children.

And even those that are suitable, are often the sort that require you to stop every five words to explain who people are, define words, and provide context. I do that all day, every day; and some times I’d just like to have a meal in which I can talk grown-up stuff with people I don’t often see — and not be bogged down with a learning situation for children, complete with adult-to-child thesaurus, a world globe, & a flip-chart.

Possibly worse is having the kids blurt information. You know, like ruin the story you are cleverly crafting by giving away the punchline. Or how about when you are waxing nostalgic, making an insider joke with your sister about that bad thing you both did that one Thanksgiving — and your kid catches on, blurting, “You and Aunt Jackie stole a street sign?!”

*sigh*

I’d like those adults only conversations — after all, I sat at the kids’ table for years, I’ve earned them!

Does that make me a bad person? I don’t think so… My parents did it. My grandparents did it. And the only bad thing I have to show for it is a sack full of memories.

So what the heck happened?

People started treating their children like adults — small-bodied adults, but adults nevertheless.

People thought that the kids’ table was mean; “Kids shouldn’t be ostracized for their age,” they whine. The kids’ table is seen as an archaic memento of the days when children should be seen and not heard. But when I look back, it’s the secrets shared and conspiratorial conversations with cousins at the kids table that I remember most vividly.

I remember the pride my male cousins had at making we girls giggle and gross-out over their status as pull-my-finger kings — with no gassy uncles to over-power them. I remember the turns my female cousins and I took, mocking the boys for their uncouth ways. I remember laughing so hard, milk squirted out of our noses. And I remember the gossip we shared, the secrets we confessed — things we never would have dared to say around the grown-ups. (Those dumb old grown-ups would have needed a hip-lingo-to-uncool-adult translator, a map of the school, and flip charts — and even then, they wouldn’t have been cool enough to get it.)

Sitting at the kids’ table was our private time.

So kids now can sit where they want; never mind that Great Grandpa has to sit at the rickety card table and 7 foot tall Uncle Kevin has to fold himself in half to get on that folding chair. But we’ve lost more than those physical comforts.

The kids have lost kid time and we’ve lost grown-up time.

So bring back the kids’ table, I beg of you. I miss it, and our kids are missing out on it.

Meanwhile, I have my memories… Which I am reminded of every holiday and every time I flip through old magazines, vintage photos, etc., and see images of the kids’ table.

Christmas Trees Have Never Been My Favorite Things

merry-christmas-unhappy-children-circa-1910This antique photo of a Christmas tree surrounded by little boys who seem less than thrilled suits me because Christmas trees have never been my favorite things. Primarily because it was our family custom for my father to get the itch to go Christmas tree shopping on the coldest, nastiest day of the year — and my mother, ever-interested in presenting a united parental front, agreed.

So there, in the frozen Christmas tree lot, wind freeze-drying our eyeballs, or feet and hands so cold we nearly prayed they’d get frostbite so they’d actually go numb, my sister and I stood, agreeing with any tree selected to hurry this thing up.

Only it never did.

My parents took their time looking over every tree in the lot. They called it “being selective.” But my sister and I begged to differ (and to go home) as our family’s other Christmas tree tradition was to bring home a tree with severe scoliosis — and a bad side dad would have to hide in the living room corner.

Once our tree was selected it was time to get it home, into the house, and set up. Parental bickering was involved, of course, as mom questioned dad’s desire to break all her holiday knick knacks and he in return wondered why she didn’t understand his simple directions of how to hold the tree while he sawed off branches and fit the trunk into the tree stand.

Then real fun was supposed to begin. But let me tell you, dripping noses and frozen fingers prohibit you from enjoying decorating the tree.

It’s no wonder I wished Christmas trees arrived by Santa’s sleigh too.

antique-photo-children-horse-sled-with-christmas-treeWhen I hit my 20’s, I actually had a beautiful tree selecting experience. My then-boyfriend took me out on the family property — complete with horse in tow — to cut down our own very own little Christmas tree for our apartment.

I giggled with joy over such a charming and comparatively discomfort-free holiday tree selection. On the way back to the car, holding hands with my boyfriend who led the horse, tree trailing behind him, a gentle snow fell to complete the Normal Rockwell imagery and my insides warmed with the romance of it all.

Too bad that relationship ended with more pain and tears than the cumulative hours spent Christmas tree shopping with my folks did.

Since then, I’ve had children. And a divorce. Then a new marriage — with a new daughter. All situations which affect Christmas trees and my affection for them.

Marriages bring debates over conflicting traditions, such as Real Trees Vs. Artificial Ones, just where the tree should be placed, when and how to trim the tree — including whether or not tinsel can be used.

Children bring ornaments. By the truckload. Each child has multiple Baby’s First Year ornaments, packed in layers of tissues with of all the ornaments they’ve made through the years.

My husband, ever the packrat, has all his old childhood ornaments, set aside and saved for him all these years by his loving mother.

presents-on-christmas-tree-dated-1896Which means every year my Christmas tree looks more like the cliched family art gallery refrigerator than the holiday tree of my dreams.

Among the complications of a blended family like ours at holiday time, are the sheer number of ornaments. Since we both were single parents for a number of years, we each had more than enough ornaments for one tree — and now they’re combined. The only preferential treatment my fancy themed ornaments get is to remain safely tucked into their boxes, saved for that future One Day.

You know, that one day when my children are older and I give them the boxes of their ornaments I livingly saved for them… Then I can have a fancy designer styled tree.

Only thing is, I’ll probably miss my cluttered Christmas tree, that literal mess of memories, and the stories each ornament had.

No, Christmas trees have never been my favorite things; but they do contain memories and they are decorated in stories.

Vintage Christmas photos via The Antique Christmas Lights Museum.

With Silver Bells On: A Favorite Christmas Memory

silver-bells-coverA story from my mom, of No Egrets Antiques:

Christmas at our house was always wonderful! It was not that we got everything we wanted – kids always have expectations way beyond reality. But everything seemed bright and shiny. My mom had Christmas music on the radio (the one with the little, round red light in front), and later on the “new hi-fi system.” And she sang or hummed from Thanksgiving to New Years.

For as long as I can remember, her favorite was “Silver Bells.” My brother’s first year in the Army was when Elvis was really at his peak. His song “I’ll be Home for Christmas” was played over and over again. My brother had been told he would not be able to get leave and had told my mom several times. But she never, ever gave up believing. Her boy, her first born, would make it home. Sometimes we would tease her but she just took it in stride. “Just wait and see,” she’d say. But when it was the day before Christmas Eve, and still no sign of Mike, she began to lose a bit of her faith.

vintage-soldier-home-for-christmasWe were at a corner bar/restaurant, having a fish fry. My sister was standing outside, watching the snow come down. All of a sudden she tore back into the restaurant and said, “Mom, a soldier just got out of a car!” She told her to calm down, but she got up from the table and went to see for herself. So we all went to the front door. As long as I live, I’ll never forget how my brother picked her up in his arms and swung her around! There were beers and tears all around for in a small community, everyone knew everyone. His leave was short and it was so hard to see him go again, but her wish came true and we all rejoiced!

I think it was then that I learned that the best gifts do not necessarily come in colorful wrapping paper, nor need to be expensive. This gift, as they say in commercials now, was priceless! And one for my memory book!

Photo credits: Silver Bells image, via Silver Bells bongocast; soldier home for holidays via Dr. X’s Free Associations.

Christmas Decorations: Why We Make Him Carry All Those Boxes From The Attic

snapdragon-antiques-holiday-decorationsUnpacking delicate vintage glass ornaments, untangling glowing orbs of flickering light, placing winter village scenes just so, divided camps of garland vs tinsel, and don’t forget the tradition of tree topper placement. Some believe less is more (those weird freaks!), and others (like me!) believe holiday is the time of year to go all out. But no matter what our design style, we all deck those halls.

We decorate our homes in the right fashion & in the established order as dictated to us by tradition.

And by “tradition” I mean the stuff that mothers and wives say.

We women get away with all of this for many reasons. After all, it’s usually the women who rule the roost, so it’s we who decorate the roost. We choose between real & artificial trees. We direct the placement of the tree – based on the ability of it to be best seen by those inside & outside of the home, with a dose of practicality to household traffic pattern. We tend to be the ones with the largest collection of ornaments, ceramic villages, and other family historical objects & know the importance & lore of each object as well.

Women tend to be the keepers of family history. The story keepers. We remember whose ornament is whose, the when & why, and we need to balance the old memories of our ancestors with the newer stories of our own families. Not only do we remember the stories, but we also, and this is perhaps the most important part of it all, we share those stories.

vintage-elvesAnd in order to share those stories, we know that there must be proper placement. For how else can we bring up the funny stories of ice skating gone bad, if the winter pond scene isn’t displayed? How can we discuss the history of Uncle Marvin’s elf collection, if the elves are not displayed properly? Without seeing great grandma’s tree skirt, no one can mention how lovely it is, and then we might forget to tell the story of her first Christmas in America.

The physical placement of objects & ornaments is directly tied to our oral traditions.

So it seems only natural that at the holidays, a time of family & tradition, that women give all the dictation on the decoration. This goes here, that goes there, use the angel – not the star, just a little more to the left please. More lights, less lights, all white lights.

If you don’t want the oral tradition to include the tale of the year there was no presentation of Marvin’s elves (a story to be repeated each & every year), you’ll just carry & tote, move & remove, then, yes, then get out of the way & let her do her holiday thing.

Now please bring down those other 8 boxes marked ‘Holiday’ from the attic, honey – we must begin to set up the Winter Wonderland on the console table behind the couch (which will now have to be moved to better appreciate the view of the tree). Everything must be just so.

And some folks already began in October, so we are late.

Images via Snapdragon Antiques.