There’s nothing quite like a pile of 1970s Christmas decorations to make you feel the true desolation and desperation of the holiday season.
I mean, how did we ever survive those years, and how (and why) have those artifacts survived into a new century?
It’s a Tootsie-Pop-level mystery we may never solve, but that doesn’t mean we can remember … and cringe.
Here, then are fifteen 1970s Christmas decorations that will scare you all over again.
It all started, as Christmas always does, with the tree. And, though aluminum trees have their roots (har!) earlier in the twentieth century, it was a rite of passage for kids in the 1970s to watch the color wheel twist its rainbow all over a TV dinner tree at grandma’s house, or your neighbor’s house, or in your classroom.
Cheap Artificial Trees
Not everyone had aluminum, of course — there were plenty of artificial trees running around out there with shredded plastic for needles. Pretty sure they were made from trash bags.
And some folks had real trees. But there were no frous-frous Fraser firs back then to keep your floors clean and your hands puncture-free, at least not at the tree stands we frequented. Nope, you had two choices: white pines with soft, wispy branches that couldn’t hold up a hook even without an ornament attached and branches spaced two feet apart; or hardcore firs equipped with actual sewing needles all along their branches.
Whatever type of tree you got, it was mandatory that you layered it with enough icicles (tinsel, for you high-brow types) to obscure your actual choice in arboreal delights. And if you “accidentally” carpeted the floor with the stuff, all the better.
You also needed to make sure folks knew you were celebrating Christmas and not, like, summer or something. So … snow. And you had to make sure to get the really waxy stuff so that it would never, ever come off, and so that it could complement all the candles. Those will come a bit later down this list.
And, oh yes — you had to wrap your tree with something garish, too. Store-bought garland was a popular choice, but if you were a kid with working parents and bills to pay, you had to cut costs somewhere. So, pop up some corn over those candles (still below), line up a thread and needle, and get to garlanding.
Infant-Sized Tree Lights
Somewhere in the mix, of course, you had to put lights on the tree. The general goal was to find the biggest, hottest, most colorful lights you could, and then load up as many as would fit on the branches. The basic rule of thumb was that if your house didn’t smell like something burning, or melting, or maybe like electricity itself during December, well, you weren’t doing it quite right.
Construction Paper Chains
Or, if you had red and green construction paper at your disposal, or could talk your teacher into it, you could always cut alternating strips and glue (or tape or staple or paste) them together into interlocking chain links to wrap around your prickly friend.
Plain Glass Balls
You had to have decorations on the tree, too, because it was in the contract somewhere. Nobody gave a crap about your baubles, though, so the default was big balls, of all colors. They had to be glass, too, so that you could drop them on the floor and then spend most of the new year picking up shards with your bare feet. You know, when you least expected it.
Every year just after Thanksgiving, the school would gather us all in the gymnasium to listen to a salesman’s pitch about the amazing new line of candles he had available for us to hawk to our family and friends. We could win amazing prizes. We could whiff fabulous smells. We could guilt our parents into buying a cheap wall sconce and the vanilla spice Santa and holly canister.
Wax Horror Candles
And, of course — of course — you had to have the *real* Christmas candles. The ones that were made to hold down your house during those pesky Christmas tornadoes. The ones made from melted down hogs, one swine for each candle. The ones that looked like nightmare trees, deformed reindeer, Freddy Krueger Santas. They were awesome.
Skinny Red Candles
Some people, usually your mom or a stuffy teacher, always insisted on more “elegant” fare, and you were thus subjected to long, slender red candles. My guess is that there was a secret catalog of Mrs. Claus’ Boudoir Delights running around out there, shipped to certain women every fall, and that was the source of these abominations.
Mini-Sun Outdoor Lights
Same idea here as with the tree lights above, except you could and should go even bigger and hotter. If you never scorched your soffits during December, here again, you were doing something wrong.
Today’s blow-up dolls are a copout. In the 1970s, each family was allotted one hard plastic Santa of some shape or form. If you wanted more, you waited for someone to die, or you got it in the divorce, or you married into one, or you went to a garage sale. Then, you set it in the yard after Thanksgiving, ran an extension cord to it, and hung an end-table lamp inside or behind it with fishing line.
And then it blew away.
The 1970s saw the rise of cozy little table-top ceramic villages among the rich. All of those happy Dickensian pixies lived in a world covered in thick blankets of white snow — like, literally these cloth puffs that filled every corner of Makebelieveville with cloying white fibers. Us plebes could never build the villages, but we could drape our curio shelves with cheap felt-gossamer crap. So we did.
Also, this stuff was a popular choice as kindling for some of the big tree lights and candle mounds that threatened to snuff us out every day in December.
So … what would make your list of unforgettable 1970s Christmas decorations?