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Wednesday, December 22, 2021

What’s Old is New Again

     In the 1960s and ‘70s, lighted ceramic Christmas trees were everywhere in the United States, and this year they seem to be making a comeback. These cheerful decorations have been around for about eighty years, so many may have been inherited from mothers and grandmothers but new ones are being advertised in a variety of outlets.

Debra Hines' Tree

     The earliest models appeared in the 1940s and were made by private craftspeople. As the figures gained popularity, they began to be commercially produced. The Atlantic Mold company copyrighted the first lighted ceramic tree in 1958. The traditional model is a green tree with ‘snow’ on the branches and multi-colored lights. But as more manufacturers entered the market, variability in size and colors were introduced. Initially, the lights were lit individually, but soon an easily replaceable single bulb in the hollow center of the tree became the source for lighting all of the bulbs.

     Popularity of these trees grew through the ‘60s, reaching its peak in the 1970s. As women wanted to produce their own decorations or handmade gifts, they flocked to classes at local ceramics shops to paint their own creations. This allowed many choices of paint and plastic ‘bulb’ colors. 

My Tree

     In the 1980s, the demand for the trees declined as did interest in ceramics as a hobby. At that time, I worked at the Iowa Veterans Home, where production of these decorations was still popular among the residents who frequented the Recreation Department’s ceramics workshop. I placed my order for a green tree with blue lights to match my holiday décor during my time there.

     In the 1990s many mold makers and ceramics manufacturers went out of business, merged, or discontinued making the lighted trees. This year interest has again surged. According to Country Living magazine (, lighted ceramic Christmas trees are “all the rage again.”

     Mine is out and shining brightly every night. Does your grandma have a lighted, ceramic Christmas tree? Your mother? You? 

Merry Christmas!

Ann Markim




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  1. These weren't a 'thing' in Scotland in the 60s or 70s, but I have seen versions of them since. As I remember 60s Europe it was all about the artificial trees made from the new plastics, and they came in many colours. My granny, ever the fashion leader, had a white tree covered in silver and crystals. I thought it was the most beautiful tree I'd ever seen and still decorate a small one like that in her honour.

    1. I think we had the colorful plastic trees inthe States, too. Love that you decorate a small tree like your granny's in memory of her. Merry Christmas!

  2. I thought your tree was from the Iowa Veterans Home. I remember how difficult they were to get for a while. Residents were still making a few every least up until the last year or 2 with COVID :( I still enjoy seeing these.

    1. Yes. The tree is still special to me - brings back many good memories.

  3. A lovely piece of history and a delightful custom
    Thanks for sharing

  4. They are so fun, and as they say, 'everything comes back around'. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Doris