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Found: a Christmas wonderland in the city

December 6, 2011

While I can’t deny that the Christmas trees that grace the pages of home design magazines are gorgeous with their artfully arranged ornaments, coordinating ribbons,and garlands, they aren’t for me.  I vowed that when I became a parent I would never have such a perfect looking tree.  A Martha Stewart approved Christmas tree would just never work with one of my beloved Barbie doll ornaments my mother has given me over the years, or my easy bake oven ornament that actually lights up and smells like cookies.  My husband’s Scooby Doo “mystery machine” ornament would definitely stick out like a sore thumb.

My love of quirky ornaments probably started when I was little, and my sister and I would actually argue over who got to hang my dad’s vintage spaceman ornament on our tree.  It was his favorite ornament from when he was a kid in the 1950’s, and it was always the star of our family tree.  I still get excited each year as I unwrap our ornaments and remember who gave it to me or where and when I bought it.  Like the undeniably cheesy Lenox bride and groom ornament I bought the year of my wedding.  Or the birthstone ornament I bought with my daughter’s name on it.

So when I passed by Authentiques Past and Present in Manhattan and saw a spaceman ornament much like my father’s in the window, I had to go inside.  Authentiques, which has been in business for over thirty years is a mini Christmas wonderland. Every inch of the store is covered in Christmas decorations. They have reasonably priced vintage ornaments, new ornaments in every shape from robots and Eiffel towers to fruits and vegetables, star toppers, and reindeers for your yard.  They also have fantastic vintage gifts a la Mad Men.  Ashtrays, cocktail glasses, and jewelry.  My daughter was so excited to be in the shop that she actually listened to me when I told her NOT to touch anything.  The two gentlemen who were working that day gave June her very own basket to put her ornaments in and carefully wrapped her selection up with double the bubble wrap so that she could carry it herself.  We’ll be back to pick out another ornament next year, and I’m glad that my daughter will now be part of our Christmas tradition – and I’m wondering which ornament she’ll be most excited to unwrap.  Will it be Barbie?  The easy bake oven?  Or her very own robot?


Authentiques Past and Present
255 West 18th Street (between 7th and 8th Aves)
New York, NY 10011
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays, Wed-Sat from 12-6 pm and Sunday from 1-6 pm


Paula Balzer is a Brooklyn based literary agent and co-founder of the blog www.adhocmom.com, the blog for freelance and part-time working moms.