Decorating With a 1920s Touch

When putting the holiday exhibit together this year, Collections Coordinator Michelle Villarreal was seriously (and we mean seriously!) inspired by Americans’ love for crepe in the 1920s. The holiday exhibit remains on display through January 4, 2015.

As Christmas approaches, we get caught up in a flurry of activities including shopping for gifts and sending holiday cards. Amidst all the hustle and bustle lies another delightful undertaking: decorating the home. To adorn La Casa Nueva, one of the Homestead Museum’s historic houses, is quite another mission all together. Fortunately within the Homestead’s collection are primary resources such as magazines, pamphlets, photographs, and guidebooks that provide wonderful insights into the world of Christmas décor during the Roaring Twenties. Within La Casa Nueva one will encounter red and green crepe paper streamers and bells; velvet-like ribbons; and lush garlands, all of which are inspired by those primary resources.

Christmas tree, 1927
A festive Christmas tree from 1927.

The use of crepe paper was popular in the 1920s and can be seen not only in pamphlets but also in various photographs of residential interiors. One of the largest producers of crepe paper was Dennison’s. Their promotional booklets contained ideas for decorating ceilings, chandeliers, mantels, stairs, doorways, windows, and walls in every color of the rainbow. The company even featured a delicate costume one could make entirely from crepe!

Crepe is featured prominently in La Casa Nueva's Main Hall.
Crepe is featured prominently in La Casa Nueva’s Main Hall.

Although Christmas lights cost a hefty sum in the 1920s, it was considered a delightful addition to the Christmas tree or to the exterior of the home. A box that contained a set of eight bulbs cost $3.95 at the Broadway Department Store in Los Angeles. The expense of such lights may not have been affordable for most; however, a perfect substitute for Christmas lights was garland, tinsel, and other glittering ornaments that gave just enough shimmer to the tree.

It is amazing how the past is ever present in our holidays, from the family Christmas recipes handed down from generation to generation or the continued use of decorations that were familiar to folks decades ago. May you all enjoy those traditions and adornments that make this time of year just a bit more magical and filled with history.

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