6 DIY Christmas Decorations From 1948 To Try (Plus 1 NOT To)

Do you decorate for the holidays?

So did “smart homemakers” in 1948. I know this, because I happened across the December 1948 issue of Mademoiselle’s Living Magazine, which is, explicitly, the magazine for smart young homemakers.

It says so on the cover, and these folks look smart.

I love home magazines, and this one, from the late 1940s, did not disappoint. 

Deck The House

I applaud the spirit of making your own holiday decorations. Of course, I do. Paying for decorations that are made under questionable circumstances, out of less-than-ideal materials is not my idea of a good time. We can attribute this to several things, the most likely culprit being reading simplicity classics like, Unplug the Christmas Machine, and Hundred Dollar Holiday, much, much too young. Throw in being Mennonite during my formative years, and kind of a design snob, well, I am not the target audience for inflatable lawn ornaments. If you are, and they bring you joy, more power to you.

These DIY crafty Christmas decorations have several things going for them:

  • They’re made out of simple materials, that you may even have already
  • A lot of the materials are compostable or recyclable
  • None of them would take long to make
  • They’re pretty cute
  • Only one is terrifying. For vintage crafts, that’s a pretty good ratio.

Let’s look, shall we?

1. A Cookie Cutter Wreath

“Try tying shiny cooky cutters or copper molds to an evergreen wreath. John Kelly, New York florist, did this on a mammoth boxwood wreath. Other greens are suitable, too.”

I think this could be quite fun, if you happen to have cookie cutters to spare. Attaching the cookie cutters to the wreath is just a matter of cutting some pretty twine, and tying them on. A quick perusal of Pinterest shows that this idea remains popular.

2. Great Big Cardboard Angel

“Cut Christmas angel from cardboard to soar over the mantelpiece in a red crepe-paper gown, gold paper wings.”

Okay. That angel’s little face is adorable. This kind of instruction cracks me up, though. “Cut Christmas angel from cardboard,” it says, like that’s something everyone knows how to do. (Actually, that’s kind of a feature of vintage craft and recipe directions. They assume a much broader skill base than many of us moderns have). Luckily, there are easy printable templates all over the Internet for just this kind of thing.

3. Doilies and Bells

“Center clusters of tiny silver bells and ornaments on paper doilies to decorate mirrors.”

Do you have more Christmas ornaments than you can fit on your tree? If you have a large, decorative mirror (my grandma sure did!), this might be worth a try. The ever-useful paper doily would protect the mirror from getting scratched by the clusters of bells and ornaments. Clever!

4. Door Decoration

“Trim a door with striped paper and toy trees hung with huge baubles.”

This one, I am not so crazy about. How do you attach toy trees to a door? Wouldn’t they need to be flat? Don’t the baubles bang around when you open or close the door? Maybe this would work if you had, say, a patio door you didn’t use during the winter, and cut some toy trees in half, which sounds, frankly, like a pain in the neck.

5. Paper Chain

“With Scotch tape, fasten paper chains and tiny bows to doors.”

Done and done! I love paper chains. Kids can make them, they’re super-cheap, I already have paper, there’s really no losing here.

5. Starry Windows

“Cut out all sizes of stars from gold and silver paper. Paste on a glass door or on window panes.”

I think this is terribly, terribly sweet. I would absolutely do it, if my windows weren’t next to radiators, and thus, prone to condensation. It’s like paper snowflakes, but even prettier.

6. Greenery

“Above: John Kelly suggests a big holly chandelier with a sprig of mistletoe underneath. Branches are wired candleholders. Below: Dunk a door mat in green Rit, wreathe in Princess Pine, paint Noel in white on mat. This is also a John Kelly idea.”

That John Kelly, noted New York Florist, is full of ideas. The holly chandelier appears to me, although Mr. Kelly has given me no ideas for how to make one. Am I supposed to make one? Am I supposed to wire a chandelier into a bunch of holly?Am I covering my existing chandelier? Are electrified floral arrangements something the average smart young homemaker knew how to do in 1948? I have a lot of questions.

The doormat is cute. However, I think I’d find an already green one, rather than dying it myself, because that seems, as the kids say, “Extra.” I’d probably leave the pine off, too, as I think it would just get stepped on.

7. Ruin Christmas

“Fasten some Santa masks from the dime store to doors; add red paper hats.”

Oh no, no, no. I think not.

I would like to remind you that masks don’t have eyes. All the red paper hats in the world will not make up for the empty sockets greeting  your guests. Also, in the 1940s, Santa masks looked like this:

Oh, HELL no.

And this:


Do not hang a soulless, eyeless, creepy Santa mask on your door. Definitely don’t hang two of them.


So what do you think? Are you going to try any? Let me know if you do!