The Nostalgia of Holiday Decorations

The Nostalgia of Holiday Decorations

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Julia Brenner
Dec 25, 2015
(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

This is a story in photos of Lauren (of Lauren's Warm & Light Chicago Condo) Baker's Christmas decorations. It's also a reflection on tradition: the new traditions we create as we build our adult lives and the nostalgia-filled traditions that take us back to our childhoods, to that Christmas-morning feeling when we were six, to shared customs with loved ones, and to people and places that may only live on in memory.

(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

Many of us have our special albums of the season (Vince Guaraldi's Charlie Brown Christmas will forever take me back to decorating the tree when I was little) and favorite family cookie recipes (my Texan grandmother's Sand Tarts, aka Mexican Wedding Cookies, aka Russian Teacakes, aka Swedish Tea Cakes, aka Italian Butter Nut, aka Southern Pecan Butterball, aka Snowdrops, aka Snowballs). We have specific methods for decorating carried on from our families and new ways of doing things because it's important for each generation to break the mold. We have singular emotions attached to this time of year, and simple items—lights, ornaments, candles, knickknacks—can stir up powerful feelings and memories.

Here's the story of Lauren's decorations and what they mean to her. And please share a story or two about your favorite holiday decorations or traditions in the comments below!

(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

Old Traditions

I have so much nostalgia for the holidays... so many of my decorations remind me of growing up and bring me back to my childhood, especially Christmas at my grandparents' farm in Camden, Indiana, where every year, a large copper pot held the wrapping paper (I'm still on the hunt for one of those!) and a ceramic light-up Christmas tree sat on the homemade candy table. I bought my own ceramic tree from an antique store a few years ago and love the memories it brings back.

Although my own aesthetic is different from my family's, I've definitely found ways to incorporate pieces over the years that remind me of how I grew up and bring the spirit of my childhood holidays into my own home.

I have been adding items to my holiday decor for over 10 years, and it's so special to see the memories that I have created on my own so far.

(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

My mom always had seasonal throw pillows specially on display during the holidays. This pillow on my Hudson Bay chair is a recent find from District in Chicago. It's also kind of my dream to own a Jeep Wagoneer someday!

(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

I can't tell you how many times I played Alvin and the Chipmunks' Christmas album on my record player as a kid (now those darn songs are stuck in my head). I still think there's something so special about playing a Christmas record on a record player.

(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

This Santa with a broken light is from my grandma's house and, even though he doesn't work, he takes me back to so many wonderful Christmases with my grandparents.

(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

This copy of Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol belonged to my great-great-grandfather and has just been handed down to me after spending decades in the homes of several generations of my family. My mom always reminds me not to throw it away (like I would!).

(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

Vintage bulbs in my grandfather's cigar case—I use that case all year for decor, but I love filling it with these colorful vintage bulbs during the holidays. Gold antler from District and llama from Alapash are just fun, somewhat quirky items I have purchased from two of my favorite small businesses in the neighborhood that I hope will be passed down someday. These types of pieces remind me of the items I have received and consider to be treasures from my family.

(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

We always decorated the outside of the house with lights/decor growing up, and I knew I wanted to do this with my balcony this year, as it's my only outdoor space (city life!). Vintage colored lights on my plant stand totally remind me of being a child of the '80s. I think it took until high school to talk my parents into white lights. Now it's funny that I am starting to LOVE colored lights again as an adult.

(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

The Lola 2007 ornament was a gift from my dog walker, Roscoe Recess, the first year I had Lola, my English Bulldog. Lola is 8 now, and I love looking at this puppy pic of her every year (and can't believe we have been together for 8 years!). Glitter giraffe: we host a craft/bake sale at The Land of Nod corporate office every year to support an after-school program in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago. This was my first crafted ornament purchase for that program.

(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

London Cab and telephone booth from Harrods: I got these on my first trip to London 6 years ago while visiting my best friend from college who lives there now. I loved London and how it reminds me of my first adventure of traveling internationally.

(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

Camp Wandawega canoe paddle ornament is from a recent collaboration with The Land of Nod. I went to Camp Wandawega for the first time this past summer and it literally is my happy place! So magical. Wooden ornaments are from a favorite local store, Alapash. I love supporting small businesses in my community. Until I was 10, I lived in a very small town in Indiana and when I was little, both my parents worked at small businesses in our town. My mom worked at the local drug store and my dad was part owner of a computer store.

(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

This fella, plastic Santa, is my way of paying tribute to the giant plastic Santa head that went on the front of our house every year. A little tacky... a little amazing.

(Image credit: Julia Brenner)
(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

New Traditions

Fresh greenery is a new part of my holiday decorating, and seeing this little tree in my planter from District fills me with cheer.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: When Lauren and I first talked about the idea of exploring nostalgia in holiday decor, I planned on featuring a variety of diverse cultural traditions. However, due to the limitations of time, I was not able to realize that vision, but I hope that Lauren's personal stories will spark many of you to jump in and share your own personal stories with us, below.

Thanks, Lauren—and cheers!

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