The 1930s Christmas tree and decorations!

You might think that people in the 1930s, due to the Great Depression, didn't had beautiful festive trees in their home. Just like we do today people in the 1930s also saved their Christmas decorations that they, most likely, bought in the 1920s (which was a pretty good year economically) for future Christmases.

Common Christmas decorations in the 1930s were bells, balls, tinsel and golden haired angels at the top. The ornaments were hand-blown; it's a miracle that so many have survived throughout the years. But also the German glass ornaments were very popular, especially in America, and albeit reluctant, the shops began to sell them and these ornaments were sold out within two days. That convinced shop sellers to buy trips to Germany. The translucent plastic shapes, honeycomb paper angels and glow in the dark icicles became all the rage, just like wire-wrapped ornaments. However, the German and Japanese ornaments that were once so popular, were thrown into the trash bin as soon as the second World War began. Glass ornaments dominated the Christmas tree in the 1930s and popular magazines continued to offer suggestions for Christmas ornaments.

Glass figural feather tree ornaments from the 1930s
Image source:

In 1932, House Magazine opted to paint the Christmas tree the same color as the scheme of the room where the tree was to stand. Feather trees were popular but this declined in the 1930s as people became, again, enamored by the floor to ceiling tree. To revive the feather tree, they were sold in different colors such as pink, blue, purple and orange.

(A feather tree is made of feathers that are split and wrapped around the wire "branches" in a way that makes the feather barbs spread out like pine or fir needles. Usually the feathers were from geese and painted green - information source: )

The safety of the Christmas tree became a bit of an issue; candles on trees and in windows were discouraged as it was highly flammable due to the use of paper ornaments. Instead, families were told to discard all the scrap ornaments of previous decades.

Butler Bros catalog, 1934

French catalog, 1934

Great Depression decorating tips ...

I want to share a few creative tips with you if you, like we do, want a Christmas tree that looks like it's been brought to you with a timewarp machine, straight from the 1930s.

Fake snow
This is probably my favorite tip to share! I always have a bit of a love/hate affair with fake snow because even in midsummer you still find little flakes éverywhere (yes I do vacuum the house ofcourse). It's, together with glitter, the Herpes of creativity. Fake snow became a popular decoration material in the 1930s and this was usually made by the people itself. With soap. I have a large stock of Lux soaps that I collected throughout the years and these come in handy as the old magazine tips call for Lux soap flakes.

1 small package of Lux soap flakes
1 square of canning wax and cut one square into small pieces
1 quart of water

Bring water to the boil and add the wax and when the wax has melted stir in the soap flakes. Let it stand a little but NOT until cool. Then beat (either with your hand or mixer) until the mixture stands in stiff peaks.
Apply the fake snow with your hands to the tree branches and decorate as you like.

( You can also mix a box of Lux (or any other soap) soap powder with two cups of water and brush the concoction on the branches of your tree).

Popcorn and cranberry garlands
If you look closely at Christmas trees from the 1930s you see the most beautiful garlands. These were not commercially bought but people made these themselves. Working on the garlands for hours whilst listening to the radio with the family lot. I lóve this decoration idea and I am most definitely gonna start on this for our own tree!

The instructions for this are simple; get popcorn, cranberries, rope and start stringing away!

Image source:


  1. Lovely piece of History here about Christmas decoration in the 30s. I loved the idea for popcorn and cranberry garlands! When Christmas trees were used by the first Christians in Germany, they had food as ornaments, such as apples and raisins. It reminds me of that. I would like to make some of these beautiful garlands too! Oh, and I shall try some of that fake snow too! Since in Portugal where I live doesn't snow and I find it so but so pretty.

    How exciting! :-)
    Thank you!

    Miss Beta

    1. Yes I am very eager to start making the snow, too! In the Netherlands it does snow (alot of months except on Christmas day itself sadly) and I am not always fond of it with my old and slippery shoes haha!

  2. Superleuke post dit! Heb ook meteen even genoten van die vorig jaar, heel inspirerend! Ga zeker de cranberry-popcorn slingers in mijn boom incorporeren dit jaar!

    1. Dankjewel Julienielen! Succes met de slingers!

  3. Awww this is such a lovely post. I like vintagetheme tree this year so I am looking for antique Christmas tree decorating ideas and I found this. I like the popcorn and berry garland. So clever and beautiful!

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