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Christmas Gifts of the 1940s

This is the era of  War, rationing and fashion, we step back into the 1940’s to check out what toys and gifts were bought for Christmas.

Remarks such as ‘It’ll all be over by Christmas!’ were not uncommon to hear in Britain however, there would be five Christmases before the war was to end in May 1945.

World War 2 had struck and families had to live on strict rationings, meaning both decorations and presents were of limited availability where as today there are more decorations and presents being bought than ever before.

As the big day approached it was not an unfamiliar sight to see families decking out their air-raid shelter with make shift decorations as there was a huge possibility this was where they could end up spending their day and night even though there was a break from bombing over the holidays.

Just like today little boys and girls wrote a letter to Santa but instead of i-whatevers or an electronic this and that, children asked for more war themed toys. It wouldn’t be uncommon for a little boy to ask for toy guns and girls to ask for a homeplay set to play mum.

Board games (still very popular today) had a war slant to them with Snakes and Ladders being called Knight Raiders where the player’s went up the search lights and down the anti aircraft fire, this had families giggling all day long and was a top game at xmas.

The 40s was also known as the ‘Make do and mend‘ period which simply meant mum and dad would create or make Christmas gifts and decorations from around the house, something which is becoming very popular today with many how to’s and crafting tutorials about, parents could make products such as yo-yo’s from wood and string or if you were good at carving, models planes were also top of the list.

For home DIY decorations The Ministry of Food suggested:

‘A Christmassy sparkle is easy to add to sprigs of holly or evergreen for use on puddings. Dip your greenery in a strong solution of Epsom salts. When dry it will be beautifully frosted.’

It wasn’t all about the latest hi-tech gadgets for British children but more spitfire and hurricane models – it seems even toys were no exception to the war effort. From comic books such as “Addy and Hermy – The Nasty Nazis” in the Dandy to battle re-enactment’s they all had a common theme and that was beating the Germans and winning the war.

Families were urged not to buy lavish gifts for the festive period but to donate to the war effort, this went down well in the UK as almost £10 million bonds were sold in the week before Christmas.

As you would expect sleeping bags, gas masks and flasks were always at the top of  Santas list, however even though money was tight boys and girls still received fun goodies including the Master Pogo stick which was released in 1947 and board games including Cluedo and Monopoly.

Sweets, tins of chocolates and luxury biscuits – all of which you would expect to see under your Christmas tree or in a stocking over Christmas but in the forties these were luxuries that most just could not afford.

Due to German occupation some cheeses, brandy and sweets could not be imported meaning parents may not have had a little drink on the day, could you imagine not being  able to have a little tipple on Christmas day? We can say it would be a struggle!

For Women and Men in the 1940s, fashion and homeware played a big part and this reflected in gifts which were bought, from a simple bar of soap to lavish mirrors and cosmetics both men and women ensured they purchased pratical yet fashionable.

Christmas was still a happy time in the 40s with families making the most of what they had. Even though it may have been spent in an air-raid bunker or with no fairy lights on, the UK like today made sure the occasion was well recognised.

Have you ever had a forties themed party?  Would you be able to afford Christmas on the same budget and rations of the 1940s?

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