Christmas Fauna

Over the years, my collections of Christmas decor have grown to the point that the mere thought of unpacking them is almost overwhelming. One thing that helps keep me motivated is getting to see my house quickly become overrun with cheerful flocked and felted holiday creatures. I’ve been collecting antique ornaments since I was a child, but my obsession with mid-century over-the-top cuteness is a recent development that has really taken hold. Ranging from sickeningly adorable to absolutely absurd, the majority of these creatures hail from Japan from the 1950s and 1960s.

Among my favorites are reindeer of any sort, but particularly red flocked ones. These range in form from somewhat realistic—or at least as realistic as a bright red reindeer can be—to super cute cartoon deer. Originally these were sold as ornaments and craft items, often making their way into centerpieces and wreathes. Some, such as the painted plastic ones below came in full sets while others like the glittering fawn stood alone.

And the elves. Oh the elves! So adorably creepy with those hollow eyes and lobotomized grins. I love that they always seem to have different expressions ranging from deranged happiness to bashfulness to sinister nastiness. Most of my elves were sold as ornaments and are often called “knee huggers” for their inexplicable posture. The largest elf in the middle is about 12 inches tall with his legs folded up and contains a super annoying jingle bell in his torso to further startle you should you dare to pick him up.


These Christmas band leading mice are recent scores found this weekend while the Snag team was out and about. I can’t fully express how much I love these. They’re so ridiculous and ridiculously cute, as if they marched right out of a 1960s claymation and right into my living room. Their cuteness is matched only by their cleverness with crooked tails doubling as ornament hangers. 

Holiday marching mice too mainstream for you? Try out some ornaments on the weirder side of vintage Christmas. Here we have a pancake-faced Santa Claus riding some sort of giant ruby-eyed white bird, a mother elf with her daughter sledding in a giant shoe and a snowman wearing pajamas and a striped nightcap. Um, awesome. Just awesome.

These lovely ladies came in their original cellophane windowed boxes. They are designed to use as ornaments or to simply set on the table. Personally I can’t imagine a more fun table setting than one with fanciful little people dancing around between the taper candles and holly.

This angel is the picture of mid-century perfection. At 14 inches tall, she is presumably a tree topper but is designed with a stand so she can be used freestanding anywhere. Her face is made of hand painted cloth. Interestingly, she is designed with wired legs and feet, despite never being able to see them. That’s attention to detail you can’t find today.

For a slightly more realistic take on the winter season, I have a caribou and two vintage eskimo dolls—all clad in genuine leather and fur.

But again, it’s Christmas so why not go all the way off the cuteness scale with these Napco baby reindeer salt and pepper shakers? I found these last year at a Pennsylvania Goodwill Outlet store. At a Goodwill Outlet, merchandise is literally dumped into long troughs where buyers sift through the rubble for treasures and items are priced by the pound. How these little guys survived all that drama without so much as a scratch, I’ll never know. I found them in their original box still individually wrapped in plastic. Also included were the same set of deer only as candle holders instead of shakers. Although I initially thought of giving them out to all of my friends in true holiday spirit, I eventually decided to keep them all to myself in even truer holiday spirit to add to my growing band of Christmas misfits—led by the mice, of course.

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