Here’s Everything You Need for a Mid-Century Modern Christmas

Okay, Thanksgiving is over. We’re all allowed to put up the tree and start playing Christmas music now! Because I totally haven’t been playing Last Christmas on repeat since October (just kidding, I have).

My house is fully decked out for a mid-century modern Christmas, and experts say decorating early makes people happy, so no judging. From the aluminum tree to the felt stockings and tinsel wreath, here’s everything you need to decorate for a very mid-century Christmas.

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The Tree: Aluminum With a Color Wheel

First, I need to ask you a controversial question that could bring up traumatic memories of family fights, rage and heartbreak: do you prefer a real or artificial tree? As a child, I insisted on a real tree every year, no exceptions.

Then I moved out and had to deal with the pine tree hassle myself. Hard pass.

I love how easy it is to retrieve my lightweight artificial tree from storage and pop it together in minutes. No sap, no spiders, and it’s perfectly symmetrical year after year.

Mid-century modern aluminum Christmas tree with retro bulbs

Video: See how to assemble an aluminum tree

Yes I miss out on the pine smell, but that’s easily fixed with candles. Depending on where you live, you can also throw some lights and ornaments on your outdoor pine trees instead.

Plus, if you’re an early decorator it’s a simple decision. It has to be artificial if it’s going to last until New Year’s. Luckily the aluminum tree is basically a requirement for a mid-century modern Christmas.

I found my tree on eBay. You might want to check there or your local antique shop to find a vintage one. And if that doesn’t work, try one of these newer aluminum or tinsel tree options.

Find Your Mid-Century Modern Christmas Tree

Mid-century modern aluminum Christmas tree
Retro tinsel Christmas tree
Retro tinsel Christmas tree
Retro tinsel pink Christmas tree

How to Decorate Your Aluminum Christmas Tree

When you first make the switch from pine to aluminum tree, you might wonder how in the world to decorate this thing. It doesn’t hold lights in any attractive sort of way.

The sparse, modern shape calls for a simpler decorating style than that of the pine tree.

What to do? Start with a color wheel. This will turn your tree from silver and bare into a 1960s rainbow dream.

Decorate an aluminum Christmas tree with colorful bulbs and light it up with a color wheel

More: How to decorate your tree with Shiny Brite ornaments

From there, you can add a few simple bulbs or fill the tree with one bulb per branch, depending on your taste. It helps to use wire hooks to keep the ornaments in place, and hang them a few inches back from the tip of each branch.

Some years I stick to a color scheme, like red and green or wintery blue. Other years I go for the full color spectrum, like with these candy-colored Shiny Brite ornaments.

Spend a fun day searching your local antique shops or get the basic tree decorations online. Look for a color wheel, retro Christmas ornaments, a vintage tree topper and a Sputnik tree skirt.

Retro space age Christmas ornaments
Retro Lucy Christmas ornaments
Color wheel
Mid-century modern starburst tree skirt

The Stockings: Retro Felt and Lit Up

The stockings might be the best part. They represent drama, anticipation, and a little mischief if you’re doing them right. Start hiding treats in the stockings before the big day, and include some surprises from Santa or a secret admirer.

Increase the suspense by wrapping little gifts scattered among the candy. Some years I like to give coal candy to whichever family member has wronged me the worst that year.

Hang retro felt stockings with tinsel garland to match the aluminum tree

To get the mid-century stocking style, go for red felt. You can turn it into a family project. Sew a stocking for everyone, then give them embellishments, ribbons, felt shape cutouts and hot glue for guaranteed smiles.

Once your stockings are ready, evenly space them out on the mantle or banister. Write or print a name tag for each stocking and tie them together with a pretty curled ribbon.

Hang retro felt stockings with tinsel garland to match the aluminum tree

More: Make a retro felt tree skirt to match your stockings

If you have more banister space than stockings in your immediate family, get creative. I hang a stocking for every Christmas guest: usually our siblings, our nephew, and our cats, in addition to Eric and me.

Complete the look with a string of lights and garland—anything from retro popcorn to classic pine to shiny tinsel. If there’s no outlet nearby, a battery-powered string light is your friend.

And it’s not really a mid-century Christmas unless you stuff those stockings with some of Grandma’s old-fashioned hard candy.

String lights
Mod wool felt garland
Old-fashioned hard candy
Coal Christmas candy

The Front Door: Adorned With a Tinsel Wreath

I wasn’t sure what kinds of wreaths were common in the 1960s, so I turned to an expert: my mother-in-law. She said many people had the timeless holly berry wreaths, as well as rag tie wreaths.

She also mentioned another type I’d never heard of: computer punch card wreaths. Apparently there’s such a thing as a computer punch card.

Back in the ‘60s, my father-in-law had leftover punch cards piling up from his college classes. So many people across the country were burdened with this surplus of punch cards that a trend was born.

They folded the cards and attached them to a wreath form in a circle pattern like this. A little bit of red spray paint turned a few dozen punch cards into a giant poinsettia for the door.

This year, I opted for a mod tinsel wreath to match my tree.

Adorn the front door with a tinsel wreath

This is a quick and easy wreath to make. Pick up several packs of tinsel in the shade of your tree, heat up a glue gun and glue the tinsel around a wreath form, then tie it up with a contrasting ribbon.

You could also make a DIY Sputnik card wreath, or pick up one of these mod tinsel or ornament wreaths.

Silver tinsel wreath

More Mid-Century Christmas Decor

You might want to add a few more accessories. Bubble lights would look magical nestled in garland on the mantle.

Add a ceramic Christmas tree to a side table and spruce up your throw pillows with retro covers. Even your desk or coffee table can be festive with a tiny 4-inch aluminum tree!

Mini aluminum Christmas tree
Porcelain Christmas tree
Mid-century modern holiday mod cat painting
Turquoise ornament tree for tabletop
Retro Christmas pillow
Mid-century modern Christmas ideas

Mid-Century Modern Christmas

Find more decorating ideas for a very mid-century Christmas with vintage style ornaments, a retro tree skirt and a mod “pinkmas” celebration.


7 thoughts on “Here’s Everything You Need for a Mid-Century Modern Christmas”

  1. Tara have got it down to a T for decorating mid century! Growing up we had an aluminum tree with pink balls. Prenty and I made the computer punch card wreath with all those computer punch cards..I think we may have made one for his brothers family was sooo long ago. lol. We were thrilled when we stopped in Sacramento old town on our way home from Oregon 2 years ago. They have this wonderful Christmas store with every kind of Christmas thing you could imagine or want. (Talk about whimsy!!) We found the bubble lites like we had when our boys were young..we had to get them and now this is the 3rd year we are enjoying them! Your mid century Christmas is totally like stepping back into the 60’s! (Also love charlie with the tree!)


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