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A close up of one of the trees decorating the parlors of the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio's parlors.
One of the trees making up the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio’s “A Storybook Christmas featuring A Very Brady Holiday” is decorated with ornaments adorned with images associated with various holiday television shows and movies. [Emily Votaw | WOUB]

Decorative Arts Center of Ohio celebrates the holiday season with the Brady Bunch and classic storybooks

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LANCASTER, Ohio (WOUB) – This year the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio (145 E. Main St.) is celebrating the holidays with one of America’s most beloved television families.

“A Storybook Christmas featuring A Very Brady Holiday” fills the museum’s parlors with costumes from the Brady Bunch series and movies (on loan from the Paramount Pictures Archives) displayed alongside a selection of toys, gifts, and holiday decorations from the ‘60s through the ‘70s.

The museum is also tying a storybook theme into the holiday display. This comes from the center’s current main exhibition, “Ohio: the Start of It All,” which brings together art from children’s books with facts about Ohio.

“A Storybook Christmas featuring A Very Brady Holiday” was curated both by local historians George and Jeanne Johnson and Paramount Pictures archivist Randall Thropp.

The original airing of “The Brady Bunch” only lasted five years. However, Thropp said that once the show went into syndication, frequent re-runs only further cemented the Bradys as a part of the American popular culture canon. This success led to several spin-off series and films.

“I think everybody pretty much knows who the Bradys are,” Thropp said. “The Brady Bunch has become a part of Americana – even though it only ran for five seasons! And truthfully, it was not a critical hit – it was just very sweet, clean family fun.”

Three costumes from "The Brady Bunch" on display at the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio in Lancaster.
Three costumes from “The Brady Bunch” films, on display at the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio in Lancaster. [Emily Votaw | WOUB]
The Bradys have always been styled to reflect the flamboyant popular fashion trends of the early ‘70s. Thropp said this only added to the joy of curating the display.

“What really attracted me to these pieces were the colors, the patterns,” he said. “It just makes for a fun display when you put all of these crazy things together. And of course there’s a lot of authentic polyester! You just look at these pieces and they make you smile.”

George and Jeanne Johnson focused their curatorial contribution to the display on embellishing the Brady Bunch theme and tying in the “storybook” element.

Part of the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio's "A Storybook Christmas featuring A Very Brady Holiday" featuring a number of antique storybooks.
The Decorative Arts Center of Ohio’s “A Storybook Christmas featuring A Very Brady Holiday” features nostalgic Christmas decorations and antique storybooks. [Emily Votaw | WOUB]
“We started planning by thinking of the storybooks that pertain to popular movies and TV series and TV specials that air every year at Christmas time — the kind that I’m sure most people have seen plenty of times, regardless of whether they are 10 years old or 90,” George said. “Things like ‘A Christmas Carol,’; ‘A Christmas Story’ with Ralphie and his BB gun; ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas,’; and ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.’ These were all obvious starting points since many of them did start off as storybooks.”

Walking through the display, one notices quickly that many of the most popular and enduring contemporary classic Christmas stories have to do with fighting the over commercialization of the holidays.

George said we can partially attribute this to the fact that many of these specials premiered in the middle of the 20th century, a time period in history when, for the first time, the majority of American households had a television. This meant television advertisements could market Christmas to children in a way that had never been done before.

Part of the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio's "A Storybook Christmas featuring A Very Brady Holiday" featuring a number of antique storybooks.
Part of the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio’s “A Storybook Christmas featuring A Very Brady Holiday” featuring a close up on an antique copy of “The Night Before Christmas.” [Emily Votaw | WOUB]
“The old concept of a ‘Currier and Ives’ sort of quiet ‘Christmas on the farmstead’ was replaced by the kind of Christmas families were seeing on their TVs,” George said. “The pinnacle of this was in the early ‘60s, and it was happening not just in the large cities – the very popular aluminum Christmas trees that kind of symbolize this over commercialization were making their way all the way to the farmstead I mentioned earlier.”

These anxieties are famously embodied in “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” first aired in 1965. By the end of that particularly heart-tugging 25-minute special, Charlie Brown has realized he can’t let the commercialization of the holiday ruin it – and by the ‘70s, George said this was a realization the American public at large had had, too.

“As we go into the later ‘60s and the early ‘70s, there’s almost a complete turnaround: there’s a disappearance of the aluminum trees very quickly,” George said. “That’s when we see a real return to an emphasis on the family and the family doing things together at Christmas, even in commercials.”

A Very Brady Holiday is courtesy of Paramount Pictures. “A Storybook Christmas featuring A Very Brady Holiday” is on display at the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio through December 31. Visiting the Decorative Arts Center is always free. The museum is open Wednesday through Friday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.