My favorite part of collecting vintage Christmas decorations is the significance we attach to otherwise insignificant things. The tchotchkes that someone once bought thoughtlessly for nickels and dimes become cherished memories for someone else over the years. An ornament. A figurine. A string of fancy lights. Something that year after year magically appeared and officially signified that Christmas had begun. A couple weeks ago at a flea market I found something from my own holiday memories.
For as long as I can remember, each Christmas my mom would place a little set of 1950s ceramic angel candle holders that spelled “noel” on top of the television. They lived in a little box identical to the one above. They had belonged to her grandmother and, even though I had only known her for a short while, I always thought the connection to the past was pretty special.
When they were out, it was Christmas. It always sort of blew my mind that no matter what had ever changed throughout the decades, these little ladies showed up year after year and were the same. Every time I’d look at them I’d imagine how everything might have been 10, 20, 40 years into the past. The people, place and times that were—all absorbed into the porcelain like a time capsule.
Fortunately my mom still has those little angels as well as an identical set that belonged to her mother. I was happy to find this set for only $4, especially considering complete sets often go for $30-40. They weren’t perfect though. Much like my great-grandmother’s set one letter was broken, in this case the “L” required some gluing. That wasn’t much of a deterrent. In addition to the original box, they also came with the original box of candles, though that did not prove to be very useful.
As a child, one of my favorite things to do was to rearrange the order of the angels. There was some novelty to the fact that reversing the order of the letters spelled the name of my hometown.
Aside from making a great addition to my vintage holiday décor, these will be a great reminder of Christmases past—knowing that each time I see them I’ll appreciate some of same things three other generations of my family saw in them.