A "Mad Men" Christmas

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  • By Jane Farrell

    To some people, the critically acclaimed show “Mad Men” is a glimpse into an earlier, slightly alien time. But to me, “Mad Men” has been a weekly reminder of my childhood, that magical period of the late 1950s and early 1960s, when the holidays, especially, were like one long fairytale. In the past few years (probably because of “Mad Men”), I’ve become focused on recreating those distant Decembers. All the wonderful things I remember from childhood vanished somewhere along the way, but I’ve managed to assemble enough contemporary items in remembrance of one of the most joyous times of my life:

    The Pink Christmas Tree

    OK, my family never actually had a pink tree, but I always wanted one. It seemed so chic. This year, I bought this cotton-candy pink, prelit tree. I suggest miniature grass-green ornaments for that Lilly Pulitzer effect. Another plus: it’s just two feet high, so you can use it as an extra. ($9.90 on sale, kohls.com)
  • The Holiday Music Crooner Andy Williams released eight Christmas albums, but his first (with the no-nonsense title of "The Andy Williams Christmas Album") is the best. Not only does it include Williams’ signature tune “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year,” there’s also a number called “Kay Thompson’s Jingle Bells.” Thompson, a quirky actress, singer and author, wrote an energetic adaptation of the classic song. In the 1950s, she also created the Eloise books, arguably one of the most charming children’s series ever. There’s a lot of history here, people. ($7.57, amazon.com)
  • The Christmas Corsage My father always gave my mother one of these in a clear plastic box from the corner florist. (She pinned it on her Persian lamb coat and wore it to Mass.)They’re fairly rare – most women didn’t treat them like family heirlooms – but check on etsy.com to see what the sellers have. This bold number is a steal. ($9.95, etsy.com)
  • The Fruitcake Despite the thousands of jokes made about fruitcake, I loved it as a child, and I still do. It usually materialized in our house on Christmas Eve, even though my mother appeared not to like it very much and my father wouldn’t go near it. More for me! ($19.95, harryanddavid.com)
  • The Ice-Skating Scene I never burned these candles; I just moved them around on the “ice” (my mother’s vanity-table mirror). As you can see, I was a very creative child. ($12.99, vermontcountrystore.com)
  • The Night Before Christmas Family legend has it that I was able to recite this entire poem by the time I was four. Maybe, maybe not. In any case, these days I can remember only up to “in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.” So this Little Golden Book, with vintage illustrations, is a perfect memory-jogger ($3.99, amazon.com)
  • A Present For Dad Incredible as it may seem, holiday-themed cartons of cigarettes were once deemed the perfect gift and were endorsed by celebrities ranging from Bob Hope to Arthur Godfrey. My father smoked Chesterfields and always welcomed a Christmas carton. Luckily, he quit a few years later, and then I gave him socks.
  • A Present For Mom My mother loved the scent Evening In Paris, and the cobalt blue bottle, with its silver label, remains, to me, the very essence of 1950s glamour. The scent is still made, though it’s hard to find. Unfortunately, the bottle design has changed. But you can still find the classic bottle on vintage sites. ($25, rubylane.com)
  • The Nativity Set We always had just one decoration in our window – the Nativity scene – and we didn’t put it up until a few days before Christmas. Every night after that, I turned on a blue overhead light that illuminated the scene the way (I thought) the sky must have been illuminated for the Three Wise Men on their way to Bethlehem. On Christmas morning, just before we went to church, I got to put the baby Jesus in the manger; he was born at last. Vintage nativity sets are terrific ($89.99, ebay.com) but when it comes to the ultimate message of Christmas, pretty much any Nativity set will do.

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!