31 Vintage Photos of Christmases Past
If the past is a different country, as the saying goes, we invite you to take a trip via these charming images to celebrate the holidays in a simpler, smaller place.
Dreaming of Christmases past
Classic traditions such as leaving cookies out for Santa, decorating a Christmas tree, and giving gifts have been around for decades, but Christmas looks a lot different today. Keep reading to get a glimpse at what people used to do to celebrate this merry holiday. You also don’t want to miss these adorable vintage photos of kids meeting Santa.
Hanging up the stockings
courtesy Mike Eardly/Reminisce
When you grow up in a big family, you learn to take turns, even when it’s time to hang up your Christmas stocking. The children of William and Florence Eardly, wearing matching pajamas, did just that in a photo that appeared on page 1 of the Dayton (Ohio) Herald on Dec. 24, 1945. Mike (far left), who now lives in Beaverton, Michigan, says the family eventually grew to 12 children. This is why Christmas is on December 25th.
courtesy Janice Korpela/Reminisce
For houses without a fireplace, the next best thing was a cardboard version hung with stockings, like this one in the home of Pearl Blair in Superior, Wisconsin. Granddaughters Jodi and Cindy Korpela were photographed during a 1965 visit to Grandma Pearl. Their mom, Janice, shared the photo. These last-minute Christmas presents are perfect for a gift-giver in a bind.
To celebrate Christmas, people would come together to dance. This Christmas dance in the 1940s was sponsored by the 1323rd Engineers in Texas. Find out what your mall Santa isn’t telling you.
Doll for an orphan
courtesy Don Grudt/Reminisce
“I was finishing a year overseas when I received a care package from home containing one of my niece’s dolls,” writes Don Grudt from Port Charlotte, Florida. “My sister asked me to give the doll to a Korean orphan. I got a pass to Seoul and found a new friend among a group of about 50 orphans. This little girl made my Christmas in 1953.”
Big new toys
courtesy Ginger Crick Reeves/Reminisce
“My husband, Preston Reeves, was just 18 months old when he received this Jet-Flow Drive Station Wagon for Christmas in 1952,” says Ginger Crick Reeves of Pinson, Alabama. “As you can tell by the look on his face, this pedal car was the most exciting thing he had ever seen. He was so excited he could barely contain himself and had to give his new toy a big hug!” Check out these funny Christmas cartoons for holiday laughs.
Mr. Claus goes to Washington
Harris&Ewing /Library of Congress
These days, our skies are filled with everything from drones to jumbo jets, and we’re struggling to regulate all of them. Back in the law-abiding past, Santa himself went to the Department of Commerce in our nation’s capital to obtain his official airplane pilot’s license and get flight maps from government officials. Here, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Aeronautics William P. MacCracken (left) and Director of Aeronautics Clarence M. Young, in 1927, as well as their assurances that airways would be lit come Christmas Eve. If these vintage Christmas photos don’t get you in the holiday spirit, travel to ones of these small towns with the best Christmas lights.
courtesy Suzanne Manthe/Reminisce
“Christmastime is always filled with anticipation, but it was especially so in our house, thanks to the special holiday cards made by our father, Charles Found,” says Suzanne Manthe of Oak Creek, Wisconsin. “The 1954 card, which features twins Bruce and Barbara looking into a store window, shows one of the elaborate sets Dad contrived. The window display was set up on our kitchen table. We painted Epsom salts on the windowpanes to make frost.”
The Night Before Christmas
courtesy Bonnie Mair/Reminisce
“This is my favorite picture. That’s me at age 3, just before Christmas in 1947,” says Bonnie Bair of Manchester, Maryland. “My family lived with my grandparents Joseph and Alfretta Wheller in Paxtang, Pennsylvania. Whenever I asked, ‘Grandpa, please hold me,’ he would pull me on his lap and read to me. Here he is reading from my favorite illustrated storybook, Night Before Christmas.”
A different kind of traffic
John Collier/ Library of Congress
Bus terminals were the busy transport hubs during the holidays of yore, because air travel was too pricey for most folks. In the 1940s, a round-trip plane ticket between New York City and San Francisco cost around $300, nearly 40 percent of what you would have paid for a brand-new car. Here, a view of a crowded Greyhound Bus terminal in 1941. These stories about meeting Santa will fill you with Christmas spirit.