Monday, December 19, 2011

Put a Festive Dress on THE MANTEL

No work at all
Decorating a mantel for Christmas needn’t mean that year-round accessories must be removed. A handsome swag of greenery at one side, or both sides, is all you need. Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Ideas, 1954 (10 pages featuring 25 mantels)

The mantel in my parents’ home invited decoration because it was deep enough to create a display. The large mirror provided a great backdrop, and a recessed light created a lovely effect. Often we turned on the mantel light in the evenings while we watched tv in the next room.
My first memory of the mantel is as it appears in these photos from 1951. A few years later, my dad framed the mirror with plywood, also encasing the chimney.

Give the traditional Madonna setting a simple, modern look
BHG Christmas Ideas, 1954
Mother had a small collection of madonnas that she loved, and you can see that she displayed two of them on the mantel in 1951. She didn't feature them often at Christmas, though, perhaps because she displayed them all the time.
Nativity scene
A lovely crèche in your home brings you a feeling of spiritual peace. Too, it will remind you that the real purpose of the twenty-fifth of December is to commemorate the birth of a child who brought new hope and faith to the world. BHG Christmas Ideas, 1954 (Would they write this today?)
Above left: The picture is off-center, but you can see a '70's madonna, definitely a Christmas piece, sitting in front of the star. Note the little angels soaring in front of the mirror.
The creche featured on the right was probably purchased in the '60s. Originally it was brown, but eventually they painted and antiqued the three figures (Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus in a manger). Daddy build a ledge on the window sill in Mother's sewing area off the kitchen, and in later years Mother always put this creche in that window, framed with white lights.

[The postcard above is another from Vance's album.]


Hallie said...

I really like how Grandpa framed out the mirror--it's a much more elegant look. I've decorated my new shelves with a couple wrapped gifts and some cards. Next year I may pull out some ornaments and I'd like to have lights out somewhere. I don't have a mantel.

We went driving last night to look at lights. People just don't have the same spirit in the city. Many, many more houses without lights than with.

Kathy said...

Yes, the frame improved the look of the whole room. Plus, it secured the big mirror.

We didn't put lights on our house this year. It was so cold when it was time that I told Mike to forget it. But I do want him to put cup hooks around the front window so that I can put lights inside for any occasion.

You should see some of the homes here -- lavishly lit, and that sort of makes up for the ones who don't. has ideas for displaying ornaments without a tree. The fact that they include those ideas says something about the trends -- that people with ornaments don't have trees or that we have too many ornaments for our trees.

Leah said...

Wow, look at the copyright date on the post card...1910.

I like the idea of displaying ornaments without a tree. Trees are so expensive here in So. Calif and I don't get one every year. There are so many other ways to decorate for Christmas.

Nice frame around the mirror. I'll bet your dad was always "improving" things around the house.

Kathy said...

I went for a walk this evening and saw many homes lit up for Christmas and some not so much. Ours isn't at all.

Yes, my dad was handy around the house. He had carpentry skills, but he wasn't a mechanic. He made a cradle for my babies, an upholstered footstool for Mother - things like that. His woodworking tools weren't sophisticated.

Leah said...

This comment isn't specifically about mantels, but about decorating the house. In today's world, people often use fresh flowers or plants inside the house at Christmas time.

In the era when I grew up, poinsettias were rare & expensive. Only the well to do had poinsettias in their homes. One thing sticks in my mind from the 1940's. A little girl I knew remarked that her family was getting a poinsettia instead of a Christmas tree. I was shocked that she wouldn't have a Christmas tree in her house.

Today, people often have a gaggle of poinsettias in their homes as well as other seasonal plants & flowers. We've all seen red & white flower centerpieces, holly boughs & amaryllis. A favorite decoration I like is a tall clear glass vase filled with cranberries.

Yesterday, the UPS man delivered 2 very tall thin boxes. My brother sent me orchids for Christmas. He ordered them online from the Smithsonian and thought they would be delivered from a florist. They were shipped overnight from an orchid grower in Florida. I've never had orchids for Christmas before.