Running a little behind on the seasonal decor? Me too! Don't you worry, though—I've got here in my hot little hands the magazine that's gonna save our bacon, by telling us everything we need to know to throw the perfect all-American Baby Boom-era Christmas celebration: A December 1949 issue of Woman's Home Companion, an old-time lady's magazine.
Woman's Home Companion is long gone from newsstands; according to Wikipedia (I know, I know) it was published from 1873 to 1957 and peaked with a circulation of 4 million. This particular edition landed in the mailbox of a Montana missus. This amazing early experiment in sponsored content, produced by the magazine in 1955, really hammers home their postwar audience:
Obviously, these ladies can be relied upon in our hour of greatest domestic need, such as a frantic Christmas decor rush job. Let's see what they got.
First things first: let's get our wardrobes in order. A pair of jaunty but casual Noel looks for around the house, recommended by fashion editor Elizabeth Ambrose Madeira (actual name):
Or perhaps you want something with a little more va-va-voom? That can be arranged. Just take care to keep that nylon on nylon on nylon ensemble five feet from the fire:
Now that we're properly attired, let's tackle the decorations themselves. Let's get the atomic age off on the right foot, shall we? Because glow-in-the-dark plastic ornaments aren't just for college dorm rooms:
Now—snacks. I bet the advertisers of Women's Home Companion have some fantastic freebie recipes!
Ask and ye shall receive a cake made with green food coloring for no apparent reason and some canned cheese snacks easily mistaken for cookies. But let's steer clear of these satanic Santa cookies, which are used to advertise a brand of shortening:
Make sure to get something for hubby. Perhaps a pack of Camels?
But why bother with all the fuss and muss? Because, my dear girl, it is your sacred duty, as Anna W. M. Wolf, editor of "Our Children" and "Better Babies" explains in a note titled A Day to Remember: "There's no doubt about it—there's some special link between children and Christmas.... happy Christmases go far toward making happy childhoods and piling up memories and feelings that are strength-giving. Through them, children are enabled to build happy homes when their turn comes."
Memories like that time little Tommy got to play with FIRE:
Better get this right or your kids'll be fucked up for decades to come. You don't want your little darling to be one of those filthy hippies writhing in the mud at Woodstock, do you? But understand this takes more than a Christmas tree and some hot chocolate:
Like most important things—one's job for example, or one's marriage, or like religion itself—Christmas has to be worked at constantly if it is to keep its vitality. It isn't enough when December twenty-fifth rolls around that the gifts are ready, the tree trimmed and the turkey in the oven. We need to make sure that that "wonderful" feeling pervades the house. The air should be full of excitement. Along with all that's traditional and beautiful, there is need too for the feeling that something new is about to happen.
For instance, you might try "just a new sauce or a different dessert at dinnertime—it may mean a carol that nobody's heard before," or perhaps "it's a one-act play that you can put on in your living-room or musical numbers by an amateur orchestra." Whatever you do, "include the children." Also take them to church or maybe have them sing Christmas carols so they'll understand they're not totally the center of the universe. Got all that? Now, as for what they should be wearing, some suggestions:
Alternatively, encourage an atmosphere of military discipline, with these sailor suits. Just don't let McCarthy see them, lest he notice their resemblance to the pioneer uniforms over in the U.S.S.R. We don't want to get daddy blacklisted.
You'll need some presents, too. If you've got a baby crawling around, consider giving them literal trash to play with:
That should keep 'em occupied while the adults dash out to catch the latest Robert Mitchum picture. Is the innuendo deliberate, or the accidental byproduct of everybody trying to be on their very best all-American behavior? Who cares! We know what's in the mistletoe, regardless. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.