Christmas Eve was the busiest day of the year, fairy lights on the tree were a no-go and turkey was the main choice for families. Find out how a family in the 1930’s celebrated Christmas.
When we think of the thirties a few major events spring to mind – the great depression, war and high unemployment. Yes, times were hard and money was more stretched than ever, however families still made a huge effort when the festive period arrived.
As this was the great age of the cinema, the run up to the big day would see cinemas and theatres packed with children and adults who loved nothing more than a panto and an ice cream – nothing much changes!
Even though the Great Depression took hold of the UK, by the end of the 30’s other new industries began to flourish including the car, aircraft and the release of exciting Cadbury’s chocolates including:
- Snickers and Freddo (1930)
- Mars Bar (1932)
- Whole Nut (1933)
- Aero and Kit Kat (1935)
- Maltesers and Blue Riband (1936)
- Smarties, Rolo and Milky Bar (1937)
So we can see exactly what would be either on the tree or in the stockings as a treat on the day.
For most Christmas truly began on Christmas Eve, children would try and help mum by ensuring household duties were taken care of before Dad arrived home and once the family were all gathered together they would decorate the tree in tinsel and pressed-metal which were often bought in stores such as Woolworths. Fairy lights were just starting to become popular but most still used the more traditional candles and “during the war” which began in 1939 blackout regulations were such that lit-up lights were not practical.
Many families planned and saved all year round to help afford the presents, food and drink they would have and like today would hit the shops on Christmas Eve hoping to pick up a bargain or two.
Children would peer through windows trying to catch a glimpse of what goodies were inside – hoping Santa may just bring them what they asked for. However, once war had begun, shop displays were obscured by anti-blast tape on the windows, making it more difficult to look inside.
Preparing ahead to feed family and friends for a working class mum would virtually be impossible. With no freezers, only gas to cook with, oil lamps and candles to see in, meat and vegetables had to be bought and prepared 24 hours earlier – it would take us more than 24hours just to decide on how big the main meal is going to be!
Mince pies and Christmas pudding were one of the only dishes that could be prepared months before (we can’t see Mr Kipling being around then) and if it was shop bought this would not have been acceptable.
As Christmas morning arrived, boys and girls would charge around the tree and see what Santa had left, this may include dolls and prams for girls and boys were still often given soldiers and toy cars. Adults would receive a radio as a gift, for a middle class man this could cost more than a weeks wages.
Many would still have attended church in the morning, but once the service was finished the day would have been dominated by the wireless and BBC. Programmes included Carols from King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, which is still on our TV today, would be played and right before settling down to a hearty meal, families would tune into King George V Christmas broadcast – a tradition which still continues today with the Queen’s speech at 3pm.
Once dinner was on the table many families would sit down to turkey (as the turkey-rearing industry had matured in certain parts of the country) potatoes, turnip/swede, carrots and more.
Class structure saw poorer families eating chicken while the top end of society feasted on goose and beef. One thing both had in common was the desire for sweet things, making mass manufactured chocolate very popular – were already thinking of the big tins of sweets!
Once dinner was over and everyone had over indulged, friends and family would gather around the open fire and play with board games, this makes us feel very nostalgic and brings back many happy childhood memories.
The 1930’s may have been a difficult era to live in and although this was the case, it seems a feeling of happiness and contentment was enjoyed by all.
Would you try a 1930’s themed Christmas? or do you know someone born in the 1930’s with a Christmas story to tell? Get in touch and be part of UnderTheChristmasTree ByGone Christmases series by submitting a comment below.