Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas 1967

I was looking for some holiday decorating inspiration in my old magazines, and I consulted the December 1967 issue of House & Garden.  The holiday look that the magazine's editors were pushing that year was, well, not quite my look.  I'll get to that in a minute.

But first, I did find one photo that I think is perfection.  I was enchanted by this photo, which you can see above, because it shows a crèche.  I love crèches, and in fact, I still display one every Christmas.  But you don't really see crèches too often anymore, do you?

This crèche's figures were designed to appear modern and were made of gilded, draped burlap. But what might be more enchanting than the figures themselves were their backdrop: a wrought-iron structure, made in the Gothic style, which held laurel branches and small white lights. Amazing!

If the room in the photograph looks familiar, it might be because it was the East Room at the White House. The photo had been taken the previous Christmas. The magazine attributes the iron and branch background to floral designer Stephen Barany.  But guess who conceived the crèche as a whole? According to H&G, it was Mrs. Henry Parish and Albert Hadley.  No wonder it looked so good.

But going back to this issue's featured article: the trendy decorations for Christmas 1967 were "fantasies in crystal and light", which "have all the look of loot from the Snow Queen's palace".  I think that the decorations look like explosions of stars and pointy things, but then again, I'm a traditionalist when it comes to Christmas.  However, the photos' room settings, which had been decorated by Ellen Lehman McCluskey, were quite nice, so that helped matters.  And the decorations do have a retro charm to them now that forty seven years have passed.

Who knows?  I just might warm up to the idea of decorating with loot from the Snow Queen's palace.


  1. Ribbon candy, and orange striped boxes of Turtles.
    Those are part of my childhood memories.

    Interesting to see the use of yellow daisies - further adding
    to the golden warmth of the finishes and that of the star burst pattern on the tree.

    They're all done simply and tastefully. A far cry from what there is

    Yuletide Greetings to you Jennifer and to all your followers.

  2. I have to admit to loving that dining room table setting in the last photo but is it very Christmas-y? Speaks to me to be more 'new years'.

  3. Rachel10:03 AM

    I shockingly really "dig" the latter decorations!

  4. Jennifer the creche designed by Sister Parish and Mr. Hadley is wonderful! I agree though, I am not into the retro holiday look!
    The Arts by Karena

  5. There is room for all looks, a warm and traditional family tree in one area. with the Snow Queen's Palace look in another, as seen in the dining room in this post or as an entryway done over all in an ice motif like the scene in Dr. Zhivago, when they stumble upon an abandoned dacha, glazed inside and out in ice and snow. The contrast between the two looks only enhances the strength and appeal of each.

    As for that creche scene, it's sheer genius and would be a lovely garden feature too. As is with bare branches, it is the perfect winter garden folly or screen (perfect adornment for a blank house wall or between two properties or areas of the same garden), as well as a built-in holiday attraction when the lights are added. In season, it could support delicate flowering annual vines. New branches, trimmed from bushes and small trees on the property or even purchased, could be used to replace the ones that decay after a couple of years, the iron form always maintaining the architectural integrity. Did I say genius...?

  6. I can't imagine Christmas without creches! I have multiple ones of all sizes I put around the house on the First Sunday in Advent. My daughter and her family were given a huge creche that was made by the father of the giver - lovely figures inside it. How are children ever going to understand the true meaning of Christmas without a creche...

  7. I remember those burlap creches. I seems like it was a few years before this article--1964? 1965?--that HB (or a rival) had published a full set of how-to directions for making the things out of burlap, Styrofoam, paper grocery sacks, gold paint & glitter. I know, because my grandmother was mad for the Neapolitan creche on the big tree at the Metropolitan Museum, so as soon as directions for the burlap version came out, she went full-on into production mode.The results were memorable. At that year's Christmas dinner, there was a sparkling host of burlap angels hovering from the chandelier above the table, and sending, as they spun around & bumped into each other, a gentle shower of glitter onto all the food below. Who can ever forget that year's Apple Salad with Sugared Pecans & Sequins?

  8. Totally my style- bang on what I would do if I has the "snap" to put it together

  9. These are wonderful.

  10. Another thing that just struck me about these images, Jennifer: the sudden explosion of sparkly, spiky, crystalline ornaments everywhere that year (which people my age--well, people attuned to such things--will remember as clearly as they recall that year's epidemic of giant paisley in boys' shirts) was, in retrospect, surely ignited by something that I saw just today, over on David Patrick Columbia's essential New York Social Diary.

    The very last image in yesterday's installment of Ellen Glendenning Ordway's fascinating scrapbooks of the period shows a photo out of a program from the new Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center--which opened in the autumn of 1966, only a few blocks from the Hearst corporate offices.

    Take a good look at the chandeliers: I'd lay money the distinctive glittery look of HB's 1967 Christmas issue was set on Opening Night, 1966, when an editorial bigwig from HB looked up from his seat--and saw stars.

  11. Anonymous10:37 AM

    A White House that allowed the "Christ" in Christmas......always a winner!