Christmas Past: The second world war, Richard Tucker, 1996

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Christmas time in the second World War was very different from what it is now. At Christmas time now you have lots of presents, nice food, lovely decorations and a big tree, but in the second World War people made their own decorations out of anything they could find. People used to gather holly, berries, mistletoe and pine cones in from outside to decorate their walls and Christmas tree. Children made paper chains and ribbon bows. People living in the country used to get a tree from a local wood. Some people living in big cities, like London or Coventry didn't have decorations and trees.

In your stockings on Christmas day you would have quite a bit of fruit like apples and pears, but you wouldn't have oranges or bananas or things like that because there weren't any around as they had to come from abroad.

Children also had nuts and little toys like marbles and hair ribbons. Some children had home made wooden toys also, like spinning tops, hobby horses and rocking horses. Little girls had knitted, rag or china dolls, skipping ropes or dolls cradles. In the war coupons were used to buy many things instead of money. Because so many things were in short supply they were rationed so people were given ration books. Many people were short of food because it was rationed. People used to try and save some of their coupons to have extra food at Christmas, they used to save their dried fruit to make a Christmas cake. As a special treat some people would try to get a chicken for Christmas dinner, but for many people it was difficult to get enough to eat at all.

People who lived on farms or in the countryside were much luckier during the war. Many people had gardens or allotments where they could grow their own vegetables and rear a pig and keep chickens. These people usually had enough basic food and could make Christmas more of a celebration.

The war didn't affect farmers as much as they were not really short of food at all. They had wheat to grind for flour to make bread and milk to make butter and cheese. They also had ducks, geese, chickens, pigs and plenty of rabbits. Farmers wives used to make their own jam and bottle fruit from their own orchards. So on Christmas day they could have as much food as they wanted.People often made their own Christmas cards to send to friends and relatives and some Children went carol singing during the black-out. Many people were very poor during the war and sometimes used to swap things with friends or neighbours to give their children presents.

At Christmas time during the war people went to dances and listened to radio, because there were very few televisions around. Most people tried to make Christmas special, but it only lasted for one day, not a few days as now. Many people found it very difficult to make Christmas more enjoyable because they were so poor, and many had husbands, sons, fathers and brothers away fighting. Overall Christmas time very sparse.

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