In contemplating with the listeners recently about the proper time for decking the halls for Christmas, we began to reminisce about Christmases past and some of the decorations that helped to make them special.

My grandmother had a silver artificial tree back in the 1960s that was illuminated by a rotating color wheel that stood a few feet in front of the tree, projecting colors of blue, red and green as it turned. It was pretty snazzy for its time. Kinda futuristic compared to the skinny little artificial green tree my parents had. Their tree was essentially a pole with holes in it. You inserted the pointed end of the branch into the holes and there it was – a giant bottle washer.

My friends with big, fat, real Christmas trees would make fun of my skinny bottle washer but it didn't matter. As Charlie Brown taught us, every tree is beautiful if you just show it a little love, right?

Unless you lit your tree with a color wheel like my grandmother, chances are you had sets of lights that were strung on the tree. These lights were huge and very fragile bulbs of color that when lit was really quite pretty. "When lit" is the operative phrase, however, because they didn't always stay lit. If one bulb burned out, the entire string stopped working and the tree was plunged into darkness. Dad had to do a bulb-by-bulb search to find and replace the deadbeat bulb.

Tree ornaments were often those soft-as-eggshell glass things that would shatter if ever they met the floor. If you had pets, then it was likely something that happened more frequently than you would have preferred. Some folks also strung popcorn or garland on their tree.

Getty Images
Getty Images

The one thing that almost every Christmas tree was adorned with from about the mid-1950s until about the late-1970s was tinsel. Silver and then later gold tinsel, which was largely aluminum-based, was strewn from tree branches to reflect the light and appear icicle-like. Tinsel had to be strewn just right or it didn't look right. As kids, we would just throw it at the tree and let it land where it may. Mom wasn't a fan of our decorating skills.

Somewhere along the way, tinsel went away. It went out of vogue. I'm glad tinsel is no longer a Christmas tree staple, though you can find it on Amazon and other online locations for those looking for a retro-experience.

Tinsel is gaudy and messy and is dangerous if swallowed by pets. If applied too thickly – as it usually was – it hides the decorations behind a curtain of aluminum strips. After careful consideration and reflection upon Christmases long gone, I say "bah, humbug" and good riddance to tinsel.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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