Blogmas Day 21: Christmas Through The Decades
I’m so excited about today’s blogmas post as we’re going to take a trip through time to talk about people’s experiences of Christmas as a child through the years. I’ve had a chat with friends and family to hear all about what Christmas was like for them when they were young, learning about how traditions have changed over the decades for kids and what the hot toys of that time were.
“We used to make our own paper chains have cotton wool to paint for decoration. We didn’t have a tree until we were a bit older. We used to have chickens from our neighbour next door who bred them. We were poor so we had colouring book and crayons along with nuts and oranges in our stockings. We would have the radio on to listen to for entertainment as TVs weren’t a thing back then.” – Joan, aged 80
“Christmas was lovely when I was little, I was quite fortunate because I had lots of dolls and prams. The tradition we had was my Grandad would ring a bell and say “oh look, he’s leaving now! Hurry up and get to bed or he won’t come to this house!” We’d then hurry up to bed to go to sleep. Back then you wouldn’t put a Christmas tree up until Christmas Eve, so we always had that to look forward to. Christmas Day, my Granddad would get up first to light the fire before shouting up the stairs “come on kids, he’s been!” And we’d come running down the stairs. We’d always all cook Christmas dinner and my Grandfather would breed his own turkeys. We’d have board games to play, but I liked to make models out of plasticine and make little towns. Mr Potato Head was the popular toy at the time and I used to play for hours with that. Not many people had TVs when I was little, so there wasn’t anything we’d look forward to watching”. – Lynne, aged 72
“I always knew Christmas had officially started when my mother would pick up the Christmas food hamper, which is what my she would save for. It’d have figs, salted nuts, stuff you wouldn’t normally have throughout the year. My sister and I would make our own Christmas decorations like paper chains with all different coloured papers. Then we’d untangle the Christmas lights which would be a ball of a mess. The tree and decorations would go up about a week before Christmas. In the morning someone would should “He’s been! Come and get your presents.” I never used to be able to sleep and would look out the window which would be frozen with ice on the inside.
I’d often have a fort with soldiers, cowboys and indians, a couple of matchbox cars. Everyone would then come and visit throughout the day for a big family Christmas dinner. The song that would always play was Andy Williams’ Most Wonderful Time of the Year.
After dinner, I’d play with my toys before the family joined together in front of the TV, watching The Two Ronnies, which is something we all looked forward to.” – Wayne, aged 61.
“During the run up to Christmas, we’d always dance around to Slade’s Here it is Merry Christmas and go carol singing to get money to buy presents for our parents. We used to put the tree up first – we’d nag to put the decorations up and our mother would say “only the tree!” and the rest of the decorations would be put up the week before Christmas. The most popular toys were the chopper bikes, everyone wanted a cassette and cassette recorder, then all the games like Monopoly, Cluedo, Kerplunk, Buckaroo. Our floor on Christmas was covered with toys for the three of us, with my main stuff being Sindy dolls and my little brother’s being Action Man. My older brother would have older toys. I also had a Mr Potato head, which was still popular back then. We’d have all the Beano and Dandy annuals which we’d read and then swap. Everyone would have a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, too. We all used to sit around the table for Christmas dinner wearing the cracker hats. There was no matching placemats and napkins, just the Christmas crackers and your usual Christmas plates. The whole family would look forward to the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special.” – Susan, aged 52
“We put up our tree fairly early in December, and argue about whether the tinsel should go on over or under the fairy lights (the correct answer is over them). On Christmas Eve I used to share a bed with my little brother and I’d keep him awake telling him I could hear Santa’s bells. On the day itself we’d run downstairs and the dining room table would be covered in wrapped toys. The toys varied over the years – I once had an incredible dolls’ house full of exquisite miniature furniture – I also remember having a space hopper, which I used as my main mode of transport until it sadly melted against the radiator, and I was obsessed with Enid Blyton’s books, which meant that I spent most of Christmas reading. My brother went through crazes – one year it was He-Man, then Transformers, then the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
We’d then go to my Nan’s house where we ate the usual Christmas dinner and pulled crackers, and then it was time for the highlight of the day – the Top of the Pops Christmas special, where we’d watch Boy George and Duran Duran singing that year’s hits. Then, because our parents were divorced, we’d go to our dad’s house and open even more presents! We’d usually finish the day playing board games like Cluedo and Monopoly.” – Angie, aged 43
“We’d usually all help to put the Christmas tree up in the first week of December, well when I say helped we would usually just play with the decorations and get in the way! We used to put these little chocolate santa’s on the tree which we’d eat leading up to Christmas. We had loads of Christmas CD’s that we loved listening to leading up to christmas and on christmas day, my favourite was Slade and Wizzard. We used to have a tradition of going to the cinema on Christmas Eve sometimes to watch a Christmas film, depended what was on at the time. On Christmas day my sister would get really excited and wake us all up early, we used to have stockings from Santa that we would open in the morning and eat a big full English breakfast. Santa mostly got us small toys and chocolates. Around lunch time the family would start to come over and we would have our traditional Christmas dinner with crackers and laughing at the really terrible cracker jokes and each other in paper hats. After dinner we opened our gifts from families, I remember furbies and polly pockets being really popular when I was small and I loved collecting trolls. I remember getting a cooker and plastic food one year that everyone else played with too. We loved playing games before supper, we used to play games where we’d have to wrap each other up in wrapping paper against the clock or race our space hoppers across the garden. Of course at some point in the day we had to watch one of 100’s of versions of the Christmas Carol.” – Sarah, aged 26
“We always decorated for Christmas during the first week of December and we always had amazing window displays. One year my mother went to the trouble of painting a Dalmatian in a snow scene and it was the best thing ever. The tree would always look beautiful and often had Disney characters hiding in it. I loved the smell of the decorations, they just had this scent I can’t explain but it was Christmas to me. Christmas morning, I was very lucky because there would be a pile of presents that would fill up most of the room. When it came to toys, I’d have Bratz dolls for the most part with a lot of Disney toys but I remember when the Nintendo DS first came out and everyone had it on their list. Of course, I ended up having one! My favourite games were Nintendogs and Animal Crossing.
For the first few years, we’d have dinner at home which my mother would cook and it would be me, my mother, my dad, my stepdad and my gran who would all eat together. Later on when I was older, we would go out for food at our local carvery because my mother was a cook and it was nice for her to have the day off. Yorkshire puddings and carrots are forever my favourite and because my mother and I are vegetarians, we’d have alternatives to turkey. When I was little I’d have quorn burgers because I was fussy but now we have a quorn roast which tastes delicious. I always try and get chocolate gateau or chocolate yule log for dessert.
After dinner, I’d play with my toys while my parents watched the Christmas specials of the soaps but there’d often be some kind of special on just before them. My favourite one was when Ant and Dec did a Christmas special, I’ve always loved watching them growing up so it was great fun. We’d often open the Roses tin and have a Terry’s Chocolate Orange to tuck into, as well.” – Jazz, aged 22
“Our Christmas traditions start at the beginning of December where the kids get about three chocolate advent calendars each, one from us and one from the grandparents. They go to buy a real tree each year as we love the smell and then have a cozy family day listening to Christmas music and eating Christmas treats whilst hanging up the decorations. As we like to travel, we buy a decoration from each place we go to for the kids, then when they are old enough to have their own home, they’ll take their decorations with them, each with their own story and memory.
We do a visit to Santa each year with all the aunties, uncles and cousins. In recent years, we’ve been to the Celtic Manor, the Brecon mountain railway and this year to Tredegar House. We also have a family crafting day with the wider family to make decorations in readiness for the big day.
On Christmas Eve, we have Christmas Eve boxes with new pyjamas, a new film and hot chocolate and treats for all of us.
In the morning, we’ll open our presents first thing, Millie is desperate for num nums, Lego Friends Rollercoaster set and My Little Pony this year. We head out for a bit of fresh air before the cooking starts, then my husband’s side of the family will come for dinner. A full Christmas dinner with all the trimmings cooked by him. We’ll have some more presents after dinner and we’ll settle down to watch the Christmas films. The Highway Rat is this year’s Julia Donaldson film, the last few years have been so popular with the kids that they are really excited for this one.
On Boxing Day, we head over to my side of the family where there are 8 children and 11 adults to celebrate Christmas which becomes a home alone type affair, where Christmas dinner lasts all day and is multiple courses and numerous games are played and abandoned. The day can’t be complete until no- more food can be consumed! The kids have so much fun playing together it’s difficult to get them home but at least they sleep so well after two days bursting with excitement, family and happiness.” – Jemma, mum of two aged 2 and 4
I hope you enjoyed this time travel of Christmas Through The Decades. It was so interesting to see the progression over the years as well as some things staying the same.
What was Christmas like when you were a kid? Can you remember the “must have toy” back then?