How to Create a Vintage Christmas Aesthetic

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According to Pinterest Trends, the vintage Christmas aesthetic is super popular. Not just old timey holidays but 70s Christmas and 90s Christmas. Makes sense since bootcut, bellbottom jeans are back. But I digress.

Here’s what I know: people are searching for where to find vintage Christmas home decor, how to create a nostalgic holiday vibe and home, and even tips on creating a kitschy Christmas.

Some of the best ways to source vintage treasures? Well, here are a handful of places you can go to find what could eventually your family Christmas heirloom treasures.

Christmas decorations and a live tree with vintage glass ornaments in the living room
Photo credit: Adobe Photos.

Vintage Christmas finds at thrift stores

Thrift stores offer a goldmine of vintage Christmas items. Visit your local second-hand store, and you’ll stumble upon everything from tree ornaments to festive eucalyptus wreaths. It’s a bit like a budget-friendly treasure hunt — you never know what you’ll find. 

Remember these thrifting tips before you get started.

  1. Go early in the season to get the best selection.
  2. Check the glassware section. You might find delicate holiday goblets or vintage Christmas mugs.
  3. Search for holiday tablecloths or bedding to use as-is or repurpose and sew into vintage Christmas stockings, placemats, or other vintage Christmas decor items.
  4. Watch for discount days or special sales to save even more.

“I cherish a little cluster of bells that date to the 1930s,” says Betsy Wuebker, PassingThru. “This ornament came from my grandmother on my mother’s side. The family endured hard times during the Depression and WWII years. The ornament reminds me of the beauty of faith in all circumstances. As I get older, vintage has come to mean things that date to my childhood, and I recognize them in antique stores!”

At our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore, every holiday season they’ll put aside one section of the store for all of these vintage Christmas finds. For example, I’ve seen really cool-looking holiday china to set your table.

Also, while you’re at the thrift store, you may want to take a moment to look for this year’s ugly Christmas or holiday sweater.

Garage sales and auctions

Garage sales, farm auctions and estate auctions offer another rich hunting ground for old-fashioned holiday decorating items, especially since the things here often come from personal collections.

Farm auctions and estate auction events often feature belongings from older generations, including items like old-fashioned children’s Christmas books. This makes them a prime spot for discovering vintage Christmas decor you won’t find anywhere else.

For example, one year we attended a farm auction in Michigan, when we were living there. The farm was close to the University of Michigan, where my husband was attending graduate school. We weren’t on the hunt for vintage U-M items but there they were. We ended up in a bidding war during the auction and came home with only one thing — a University of Michigan chair. Not exactly Christmas-y but it looks great next to our Christmas tree.

Other items you can find at garage sales and auctions include:

  • old-fashioned tree ornaments
  • old-time advent calendars
  • retro Christmas serving dishes.

You may also do well to visit a German Christmas market to shop for used vintage holiday items. Scan newspaper listings or community boards for upcoming sales every season, and prepare to haggle.

Paying at auctions and garage sales

If you go auctioning, take cash, as not all auctions accept cards. Be patient and stay until the end; sometimes, the best items get saved for last. Prices at auctions vary widely, so set a limit to avoid overspending.

And remember, while you’ll generally find great prices at garage sales and auctions, items can move quickly, so head out early.

Ask family and friends if you can shop in their attic

Sometimes the people closest to you can offer the largest treasure trove of vintage Christmas items. Plus, if they’re in the process of downsizing their home or on a decluttering kick, they would probably welcome your offer to take items off their hands.

Not only is this a way to kick your vintage Christmas aesthetic up a notch, but also it can help bring back happy memories every time you bring them out at the holidays.

“Do you remember the ceramic Christmas trees that were about two feet high and had small, colorful light-up bulbs everywhere? I have my great-grandmother’s that was passed to my grandmother,” says Michelle Price, Honest and Truly. “It brings me joy every time I turn it on. I remember the visits to my great-gram’s house, all the time I spent at my gram’s, and all the time we would spend in the fancy living room with the plastic couch covers talking with the special treat of being allowed to have Christmas cookies in the fancy room like important guests.”

Church bazaars and craft sales: A dash of nostalgia

Church sales and bazaars often feature an array of homemade and vintage items. These sales usually occur around the holiday season and offer a delightful mix of rustic Christmas crafts, baked goods and vintage Christmas decor. 

If you’re looking for new fun Christmas activities for kids, attend a church sale where you can grab Christmas baking for the kids and a vintage Christmas wreath or treasure for your collection. Arrive early for the best selection, and take small bills and change, as these are often cash-only events.

These kinds of holiday markets are usually an annual thing at local churches and schools. So, you can maake visiting a holiday market a simple holiday tradition you and your family will look forward to each year. Plus, it will give you a way to continue building your collection of vintage holiday items.

Online marketplaces: Vintage Christmas finds at your fingertips

The internet offers many platforms to find vintage Christmas decor, from online markets to local buy-and-sell groups or free item groups on social media. 

Shopping online for vintage Christmas items offers a wide selection and often great prices. However, the downside is that you can’t physically inspect the items for wear and tear or damage before purchasing. 

  • Always read item descriptions carefully and look for terms like vintage, antique or retro.
  • Contact the seller for more information or additional photos if needed.
  • While prices for online vintage Christmas decor items range from frugal to expensive, always remember to factor in shipping costs.

Repurpose your vintage finds

Once you have your vintage Christmas items in hand, find new and creative ways you can use them. For example, if you stumbled upon a box of vintage cookie cutters at a farm auction, sure you could use them in your kitchen for baking. However, here’s a more creative idea: use all of these old-fashioned cookie cutters to decorate your Christmas tree.

vintage spools of thread as an ornament
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Some other vintage items that might be fun to decorate your tree with and which you might find online, at a farm auction or your local thrift store include:

  • ribbon with an old timey vibe
  • spools of thread in Christmas colors
  • old-fashioned Christmas ornaments
  • linens with nostalgic images on them

Final thoughts on creating a vintage Christmas aesthetic

Vintage Christmas decor adds nostalgic charm to your holiday celebrations. It allows you to create a season filled with memories that stand the test of time. Whether you scout thrift stores, browse online or explore auctions or holiday markets, the joy is as much in the hunt as in the find.

This article originally appeared on Food Drink Life.

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