The time: 13th century
The decoration: Nativity scenes
St. Francis of Assisi is popularly known as the creator of the first nativity: a ‘living’ scene with real people and animals. Now you’re more likely to come across miniature models of the stable scene, but you’ll have to go to the annual Kraków nativity-making contest to see the most elaborate. Try one made of wood for an authentic feel, or get your friends together for a spot of dressing up...
The time: 15th and 16th centuries
The decoration: Festive foliage
Bringing the outside inside has been a major part of Christmas decorating for hundreds of years. In the 15th century the London tradition of using plants - including holly and ivy - was recorded as having religious and superstitious symbolism, and kissing under the mistletoe first appeared in the 16th century. So when it comes to decorating in the spirit of yesteryear, you’d better put away the fairy lights and get out the shears!
The time: 17th century
The decoration: Tinsel
Tinsel isn’t as modern an invention as you might think, although these days it’s a little cheaper. This shiny adornment was invented in Germany in 1610, and the only material that worked was very thin strips of genuine silver. The original may not be suitable for a budget Christmas, so just use modern tinsel and other silver decorations to create a more faithful vintage look.
The time: 18th century
The decoration: Christmas tree
The origins of this peculiar tradition are unclear: it may be linked to Pagan rituals, or it could represent the Tree of Life from Christianity. Forget plastic baubles and fairy lights; historical decorations include edible treats like apples, nuts and candy canes, as well as paper flowers and even real candles! To really do it properly, don’t put the tree up until Christmas Eve, and be sure to take it down before twelfth night.
The time: 19th century
The decoration: Christmas crackers
In 1847 the Christmas cracker was born of a marketing trick. Thomas J. Smith decided to sell his sweets in paper wrappers, and also started including little mottos and then the ‘cracker’ element, to boost sales. His son later added the hat, and replaced the sweet with a gift. So for a really traditional Christmas cracker, just a tin of your favourite sweets will do!
The time: 20th century
The decoration: Advent calendars
Brace yourself: old-fashioned advent calendars didn’t include chocolate. They started out as simple lines of chalk drawn on the front door, then people began to mark the countdown by lighting a candle or hanging up a religious image. Behind the doors of a real retro printed advent calendar are only pictures, but don’t worry, you’re already getting your sugar fix from ‘traditional crackers’.
However you choose to decorate your home this Christmas, DotComGiftShop has lots of lovely things to help you celebrate Christmas day in both modern and retro style.