10 simple things that made Christmas magical
What makes Christmas special is coming together with friends and family young and old, old and new to share memories and make new ones. And, while many things may feel different these days, this festive spirit of goodwill is as strong now as it ever was.
What has changed dramatically is how much money the nation spends on Christmas. In 2016 it’s forecast Brits will spend over £22 billion, over half of which will be on presents.
The average family now spends up to £300 just on gifts for the kids! Some of us had to make do with a clockwork mouse and a penny whistle…
Here we look back fondly to the days when Christmas was simpler but by no means less magical.
1. Christmas started in December…
…not the day after bonfire night. The only things that mum did any earlier was making all the scrumptious delights that were only ever eaten at Christmas – like the cake, the pudding, peppermint creams, pickles and preserves. Did you stir a threepenny bit or sixpence into the pudding as you made a wish?
2. Decorations went up as late as Christmas eve…
…not December 1st. When the smell of the pine tree took over the front room and the decorations went up, Christmas had well and truly come. Sitting gluing paper chains made from torn up magazines and crafting silver decorations from milk bottle tops was all part of the fun and cost almost nothing.
3. The tree was always real
And some of us may even remember when they were lit with real candles. That must have kept the fire brigade busy!
If you didn’t grow your own, a Christmas tree was expensive to buy though. In 1968, a tree could set you back £7.50 – over £120 in today’s money – so it’s no wonder they were often on the small side. These days, the average cost of a tree is just £25.
4. Woolies was a mecca for Christmas shopping
There was no such thing as Black Friday. Woolies had everything you could ever want. Kids were taken there months ahead of Christmas, just in case what they wanted would take a while to pay for it.
Back in 1956, its most popular boys’ present was a cowboy outfit, with gun belt and six-shooter that fired caps for 11 shillings - more than many parents earned in a week. Were you one of the lucky ones?
5. Door to door Christmas cheer
Before email and Facebook, a Christmas card was the only means of sending Christmas cheer and an update on the latest family goings on to absent loved ones. After all, you had to make the most of the price of a stamp.
Neighbours’ cards were delivered in person and often exchanged for a Christmas tipple or two. And there’d be a tipple waiting for the milkman when he delivered on Christmas Day!
6. Carol singers on the doorstep
Carol singing was the soundtrack of Christmas. The glow of the carol singers’ lanterns and the chant of ‘Apples to eat, nuts to crack, we wish you a merry Christmas and a rat-tat-tat’ were your cue to open the door and hand over a penny or 3d for charity. Wouldn’t it be nice if Amazon delivery drivers sang carols this year!
7. Tangerines in your stocking
We’d hang a stocking or pillowcase at the end of the bed and try to stay awake to see Father Christmas. Miraculously by morning, it would be filled with a new penny, brazil nuts, a tissue-wrapped tangerine that was so much more exotic than an orange and maybe even a sugar mouse.
8. The annual Christmas annual
Ah, the annual Christmas ritual of the annual. Every kid got one! Once the novelty of the new toy wore off, the latest edition of The Dandy, The Eagle, Bunty or Girls Own absorbed us for hours in front of the fire while the grownups nodded off straight after the Queen’s Speech finished.
9. Gifts that were a labour of love
Mums and aunts knitted clothes for teddy bears and sewed dresses for dolls. Dads crafted carts and spinning tops from bits of old wood. And, it was no surprise to see your old wooden train set with a fresh lick of paint being unwrapped by a younger sibling.
Hand crafted toys were the norm back then. These days they’re a premium gift - with a handmade doll’s house costing hundreds of pounds.
10. Christmas dinner was a meal like no other
Christmas dinner (never lunch) was a feast like nothing else we ate all year. The bird was usually a chicken and the veg was home grown and tastier for it. Brussel sprouts still divided opinion, even if we were delighted to have so much food on the table.
The flaming Christmas pud was the big finale. Every child hoped they’d be the one to bite the shiny sixpence hidden within and nan got a bit squiffy on the brandy butter!
If taking you back to a Christmas of simpler days is stirring up special festive memories of your own, we’d love to hear your stories. I don’t know about you, but I’m sure it always used to snow on Christmas day, didn’t it?
If you enjoyed our look back at Christmas past, you may also enjoy reading when make do or mend was a way of life and top ten toys of 1950s or 1960s Britain. Or if it’s got you in the Christmas spirit then the top 12 Christmas TV moments of all time may get you all festive.