1950s Christmas Tree Traditions


Christmas trees from the "Fabulous Fifties" reflect the influence of a comfortable standard of living in post-World War II America. For example, large department stores in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia featured extravagant window displays. Macy's spent $75,000 each year designing a window display that charmed children and adults. Not only prosperity, but new machinery that permitted mass production influenced the Christmas tree traditions in the 1950s.

Tree Trends

  • Live trees became available again following World War II. Approximately 31 million live trees were sold in 1954. Artificial trees, available in green and white, featured branches that folded flat. Artificial trees were typically used in homes where space limitations prohibited a live tree. Aluminum trees were introduced in the mid-1950s and gained instant popularity. Some people considered the trees sacrilegious because of their nontraditional appearance. The trees were lit by a revolving multicolored wheel and decorated with glass balls.

Tree Ornaments

  • Many people used plastic ornaments. Glass ornaments from Germany that were unavailable during World War II were available again, but did not regain their former popularity. Modern machinery made the plastic ornaments cheap and plentiful. Consumers preferred the durability of the plastic ornaments. Styrofoam balls adorned with sequins, rhinestones, ribbons and miniature beads appeared as another ornament trend at the end of the decade.

Tree Lighting

  • Bubble lights were a popular choice for lighting a Christmas tree during the 1950s. Each bubble light consisted of a candle-shaped glass tube that held a methaline chloride liquid. When electricity heated the light's metal screw-in base, the liquid bubbled. General Electric's "twinkle bulb" lights were also popular.

Flocked Trees

  • Flocked trees were popular but difficult to achieve. The "Sensational Sno-Flock" appeared in 1951 and simplified flocking. The device attached onto a vacuum cleaner and provided aerosol-dispensed artificial white, pink or blue snow for $4.49. The results were advertised to last 30 days and claimed to be fire retardant. Consumers were cautioned to flock a tree before decorating to avoid flocked ornaments.

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