Vintage linens, with their vivid motifs, recall childhood memories of Yuletide traditions.
Christmas cloths added merriment to family celebrations from the 1930s through the late 1970s. And in the 21st century, the vibrant appeal of these table covers remains undimmed. The scarcity of holiday cloths is what makes them more valuable.
When introduced in the 1930s, these so-called lunch cloths enabled Depression-era housewives to enliven their kitchen tables — and family's spirits — for the price of a dollar and change. And for the next four decades, companies like Simtex, Startex, and Wilendure produced a wealth of generic and holiday-themed patterns to stock the shelves of large department stores and local dry goods emporiums. "Serious collectors today, myself included, will spend four and five hundred dollars for the very best of these paper-tagged pieces — which we'd never dream of putting on the table," says vintage textile dealer Yvonne Barineau. For many of us, however, these colorful old cloths are time capsules from childhood when they covered the kids' table at Christmas dinners. Even then, the sleigh you idly traced with a fork tine had likely faded from years of washing, while the cranberry stain you once left on a snowdrift — it would be a snowdrift! — had hardly faded at all. And for the majority of collectors, the timeworn colors, the errant-cranberry spot, the memories (real or imagined), are the very attributes that make these cloths so desirable.
Pictured: Hand-screened poinsettias grace a scallop-edged cloth by (whose final "e," added to the company name in 1958, helps set its date). It's in prime condition.
Aside from adding to the value of a Christmas-print tablecloth, the maker's tag can also help place its general date. If it doesn't have a label (and most of them don't), an experienced textile dealer can usually identify the probable era from the art style and subject treatment of its pattern.
From the 1930s through the 1950s, the most common tablecloth size was a 52" square. In the 1940s and 1950s, there were rectangles measuring about 54" x 68" or 54" x 72". Sometimes you'll even find a length of 88" or longer (in which case, dealer Yvonne Barineau says, "You should grab it and run!"). And in the 1960s, 60"-round cloths were more commonplace.
The most-sought-after designs include allover patterns and central medallions of jack-in-the-box Santas, elves riding geese, reindeer lifting martini glasses; while classic motifs — carolers, candles — also have their devoted fans.
Pictured: In the postwar boom years of the 1950s, Christmas figures like this cloth-corner Santa became more playful.
These artfully cross-stitched poinsettia sprays were home-sewn on a pattern-stamped cloth from the late 1970s.
The design style of its central holly-berry sprigs suggests that this tagless 1940s cloth was made by Wilendure.
A primary-colored rendition of Yuletide carolers strikes a distinctive note among the more traditional Christmas duos of red and green (late 1950s).
From the crisp-edged lines of a present-filled sleigh, the origin of this border pattern can be traced back to the 1950s.
The glitter of gold metallic lights up the candle flames, stars, and pinecones of a 1950s-style border design.
Here you'll find all the classic imagery including bells, trees, candy canes, candles, and of course, St. Nick!
A tree decorated with traditional ornaments and tinsel reminds us of the ones we celebrated with as a child.
This beauty features simple groups of flowers and a vibrant red border making it work for your dining table—or anywhere else in your home.
Bold and bright, this print on red cloth is ready to make a statement.
For more on vintage Christmas tablecloths, including cleaning and storing tips, visit or search . Here, a list of vintage textile dealers who specialize in affordable kitchen linens and are well-stocked throughout the year with Christmas tablecloths.
Fine Vintage Linens:
Right to the Moon Alice:
Gypsy Rosalie's Trousseau:
The Vintage Table:
Sharon's Antiques Vintage Fabrics:
Paper Christmas Guys: