Retro Holidays

Charles Phoenix's Big Retro Christmas Show Is Here to Cheer

The kitsch-loving historian will present a sparkly seasonal slide show, virtually, with a few "test kitchen" experiments added to the merry mix.

Dennis Degnan/Charles Phoenix

What to Know

  • Debuts on Saturday, Dec. 11; watch on-demand through Dec. 26
  • $25
  • 90+ minutes of retro slides, quirky Christmas commentary, and "test kitchen" experiments, too

Pulling out the photo albums at the holidays is a time-honored, gotta-do-it, memory-lovely tradition.

We want to see the plaid cardigan our grandpa wore to carve the Christmas turkey, and the toy train our mom's cousins got back in 1965, and the roof-topping reindeer gracing the homes of our old neighborhood.

But looking at the holiday images of families we don't know? We can't find those snapshots in our own closet, but we can if we settle in, with a cup of nutmeggy nog, to enjoy Charles Phoenix's "Big Retro Christmas Show."

The history-loving mid-century maven has collected kitschy Kodachrome slides for decades, finding them tucked away inside Southern Californian thrift stores, secondhand shops, and even private basements and attics, too.

Now several of those tinsel-strewn, bulb-dazzling, DayGlo depictions of the holidays from a half-century ago will shimmer on our own screens when the show debuts, online, on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021.

But wait: You can enjoy it, on-demand, through Sunday, Dec. 26. A ticket to watch at home? It's $25.

You'll spy over-the-top trees, lawns awash in elves, and the sort of bygone bulbs that gave shop windows and private homes a particularly colorful oomph back in the day.

Adding to the merriment? A celebration of Christmas-inspired cuisine created by Mr. Phoenix himself in his now-famous "test kitchen." These aren't traditional cakes and sides, but rather the sort of showy centerpiece eats that your guests will talk about for, well, ever.

Zipping back to the '50s and '60s in a time machine, all to see how people used to do it up on the yuletide? The charming Mr. Phoenix has built such a machine, via his slides, recipes, and, yes, his effervescent and uplifting narration.

His celebrated slideshows have covered pool life back in the SoCal heyday of patio parties, Halloween, and fin-tastic cars, too.

Now step into the popcorn-draped, ornament-draped, gorgeously garish season with the historian at the lead, and take a trip back to Christmases of the past, much like Scrooge did, but with a heftier dose of vintage vavoom and quick-witted commentary.

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