Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

How my holiday decor celebrates family & the past December 29, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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My Charlie Brown tree, an untrimmed Christmas tree purchased for $12 at a tree lot in Faribault.

I absolutely love my Charlie Brown tree, an untrimmed Christmas tree purchased for $15 at a tree lot in Faribault. It reminds me of the Christmas trees of my youth, which makes it perfect. Branches are sparse and adornment minimal.

I CONSIDER MYSELF A MINIMALIST. I don’t like clutter, an overabundance of stuff filling my house. Too much of anything makes me uneasy, unsettled.

So when I set about decorating my house for the Christmas holiday, I am selective. More remains in boxes than is pulled out for display.

I did not grow up with Christmas stockings. But my husband did. Randy's aunt made this stocking for him in the 1960s. It's missing a few decorations. But that adds to its character.

I did not grow up with Christmas stockings. But my husband did. Randy’s aunt made this stocking for him in the 1960s. It’s missing a few decorations. But that adds to its character.

The items I choose to set the holiday mood must meet my criteria of holding personal/family significance. The older, the better. Handmade ranks high. So does simplicity of lines.

Found in my mom's basement, this lovely pincecone Christmas tree crafted by my godmother, Aunt Rachel. This will now go up in my home each Christmas.

Found in my mom’s basement, this lovely pinecone Christmas tree was crafted by my godmother, Aunt Rachel, in the 1960s. This will now go up in my home each Christmas.

This year, after cleaning my mom’s house and acquiring some old “new” items, my appreciation of the past has deepened. And that is reflected in the items currently displayed.

Here’s a quick peek at my holiday décor and why these items are showcased in my home:

This paper Baby Jesus and an angel go on my Christmas tree each other. They are from the 1960s, from my Sunday School Christmas lesson.

This paper Baby Jesus and an angel go on my Christmas tree each other. They are from the 1960s, from my Sunday School Christmas lesson.

Behind the Christmas tree hangs this paint-by-number winter scene painted by my Great Grandma Anna.  This was the perfect addition to my paint-by-number collection.

Behind the Christmas tree hangs this paint-by-number winter scene painted by my Great Grandma Anna. This was the perfect addition to my paint-by-number collection and was acquired when my siblings and I were dividing my mom’s belongings. My sister got the painting matching this one.

This manager scene dates back to the late 1960s or early 1970s and was handcrafted by my maternal grandfather.

This manager scene dates back to the late 1960s or early 1970s and was handcrafted by my maternal grandfather. The figurines are made from Plaster of Paris.

While going through a box of cards my mom had saved, I found several Christmas cards that I made as a child. This year I displayed those cards, along with a vintage card from Schwans

While going through a box of cards my mom had saved, I found several Christmas cards that I made as a child. This year I displayed those cards, along with a 1971 vintage card from Schwan’s Ice Cream (right) on an old dresser in my living room. The chest of drawers was used by my dad as a child.

Around the corner on a vintage dresser from my husband's family, I display candles and an angel on a vintage mirrored tray set atop a vintage holiday linen.

Around the corner on a vintage dresser from my husband’s family, I display candles and an angel on a vintage mirrored tray set atop a vintage holiday linen.

Come December, I swap out my regular vintage drinking glasses for the Twelve Days of Christmas glasses. These were gifted to me by the furniture store right across the street from the newspaper office where I worked in 1978 in Gaylord. Since then, I've acquired the same set of holiday glasses for each of my four children at garage sales and an antique shop.

Come December, I swap out my regular vintage drinking glasses for the Twelve Days of Christmas glasses. These were gifted to me in 1978 by the furniture store  across the street from the newspaper office where I worked as a reporter and photographer in Gaylord. Since then, I’ve acquired the same set of holiday glasses for each of my three children at garage sales and an antique shop.

Three net angels dangle from the hallway light fixture. They are just like the angels my mom dangled from the living room doorway when I was growing up.

Three net angels dangle from the hallway light fixture. They are just like the angels my mom dangled from the living room doorway when I was growing up.

My oldest brother and I purchased this set of miniature plastic angels for our mom as a Christmas gift in the 1960s. Several years ago, my mom gave them back to me and I display them each Christmas. They are among my most treasured of holiday decorations.

My oldest brother and I purchased this set of miniature plastic angels from a small town hardware store for our mom as a Christmas gift in the 1960s. Several years ago my mom gave them back to me and I display them each Christmas. This angel band is among my most treasured of holiday decorations.

My father-in-law painted this holiday scene, which is why I treasure it. Plus, I really like the painting.

My father-in-law painted this holiday scene, which is why I treasure it. Plus, I really like the painting that hangs behind my couch.

Back in the day, when my dad's siblings and their families still gathered for the holidays, I received two candle Santas and a snowman from my Aunt Ardyce during a gift exchange. A match has never touched the  wicks and never will. I cherish these as much for their vintageness as the memories of so many Christmases past with aunts, uncles, cousins, Grandma and my own siblings and parents.

Back in the day, when my dad’s siblings and their families still gathered for the holidays, I received two candle Santas and a snowman from my Aunt Ardyce during a gift exchange. A match has never touched the wicks and never will. I cherish these as much for their vintageness as the memories of so many Christmases past with aunts, uncles, cousins, Grandma and my own siblings and parents.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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27 Responses to “How my holiday decor celebrates family & the past”

  1. KerryCan Says:

    What a treasure trove! I love how all these items embody family and nostalgia. I think the two paintings are my favorites of all.

  2. treadlemusic Says:

    Growing up, I remember a whole Christmas display (Santas, angels, reindeer, etc, etc) that were candles like your. It was always set up on the top of the old up-right piano! Many crafts made from pine-cones found their places, too. My fave, though, is your tree!!! I just know that Caleb will remember this one for a long long time and someday really understand how significant such things are. A beautifully sweet post containing items that bring dear ones into today. Hugs…….

    • I’ve taken much flak for my Charlie Brown tree. But I don’t care. I love it.

      I did get some well-deserved admonishment for not hanging up the Advent calendar this year. I won’t make that mistake again. My Aunt Dorothy crafted it from felt when the kids were wee. They always fought over who got to pull the holiday ornament from the pocket to hang on the felt tree. Lots of memories there. Next year it will be up.

  3. Dan Traun Says:

    I think everyone/anyone could benefit from a minimalist approach to most things in life. As a society we buy/collect too much stuff. It is seemingly an obvious attempt to fill some void in peoples lives. Just a thought to usher in the new year. Great Charlie Brown tree.

  4. Beth Ann Says:

    Nice way to remember the past and honor the traditions that have been a part of your family over the years. I recognize a lot of the same ideas–the net angels, the paper ornaments, the waxy Santa Claus from my youth as well, A nice trip down memory lane. Are they all put away now and stowed for next year or are they lingering into the new year?

  5. Thread crazy Says:

    Oh Audrey, love your Charlie Brown Christmas tree. It so reminds me of those hubby and I used to buy. I’m right there with you on many of your decorations; my husband has one of those old stockings made for him buy his grandmother, way back in 1950’s. Love your paintings, and yes, I do the same in selecting my decorations. I am blessed to have many older decorations from both sides of family so I can I choose something different each year. Inside I do a few things, but outside, I love my lights! Thanks for sharing and Happy New Year.

  6. That’s a lot of of lovely memories packed into sentimental packages, which is the best thing about passed down and shared holiday decorations. My mom had a pinecone tree that she made and now I’m wondering what happened to it!

    • I hadn’t thought about that pinecone tree in years. And then my brother pulled it out of the stash in the basement and said, “If no one wants it, I’ll take it.”

      The words shot out of my mouth: “I want it!”

      In that moment memories flooded back and I simply had to have that tree my mom hung up each Christmas during my childhood.

      I hope you find your mom’s pinecone tree.

  7. Beautiful decorations. I love the Santa candle. Our decorating is always a trip down memory lane too.

  8. Don Singsaas Says:

    Aren’t memories great! I too enjoy the old decorations from my past as well as my kids past. Only new items to find their way onto the tree are the items that the grandkids make. Unfortunately some of the old ornaments no longer get to the tree due to age and being so fragile such as the little hands made out of plaster that my daughter and son made when they were in kindergarten.

    The pictures of your decorations show how priceless particular items truly are!

  9. Jackie Says:

    Thanks for sharing your vintage treasures, My favorites… your dad-in-laws painting and the santa candle, I remember having one of those… it too was never lit!

  10. Amber Schmidt Says:

    Where is the advent calendar???? If you don’t want it….

    • I’ve already been admonished for not hanging up the Advent calendar this year. I won’t forget next year. You’ll have to negotiate with your siblings on possession of the Advent calendar. I hope you have your manger set on display.

  11. Rachel Says:

    Oh my goodness, I LOVE your tree. I’ve already made a pledge to have a real tree next Christmas.

  12. My kids made that EXACT plaster of paris nativity set! And I love those 12 days of Christmas glasses! And how lovely that your mom had saved your old cards!

    • Mom saved everything. I culled many cards from her stash, after my sister went through them and then asked for the remainder back.

      Do you own those plaster of paris molds because my daughter is missing some pieces and I think I am also. Are there camels in the set?

  13. Christi Says:

    Enjoyed this immensely. Thank you for the lovely post.


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