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Christmas in the 1940s: How Did Wartime Families Celebrate the Festive Season?

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How people celebrated Christmas in the 1940s - homemade decorations and gifts.

How people celebrated Christmas in the 1940s.

For the first few Christmases of the 1940s, families were divided by war. Even for those left at home, Christmas may have been spent in air raid shelters, rather than in their own homes. The Christmas break was cut short for those vital to the war effort, with some shop and factory workers returning to work on Boxing Day. With the ships of the Merchant Navy under attack from German U-Boats at sea, supplies were becoming scarce and food rationing was introduced in January 1940.  Despite the many challenges faced by families Christmas was still an important celebration.

What did people eat at Christmas in the 1940s?

Turkey was not on the menu in the war years; those lucky enough would have eaten goose, lamb or pork or even rabbit or a home-raised chicken, accompanied by home-grown vegetables. Ingredients were hoarded weeks and even months in advance.

As the war progressed and food became more difficult to come by, creative alternatives were developed such as ‘mock’ goose (a form of potato casserole), and dried fruit in Christmas puddings and cakes replaced with breadcrumbs and grated carrot. 

How did people decorate their home for Christmas in the 1940s?

Homes were still enthusiastically decorated for the festive season, even if the blackouts meant there were no Christmas lights in the streets.

Cut-up strips of old newspaper were turned into paper chains, and holly and other garden greenery adorned the pictures on the walls.

What Christmas gifts were given in the 1940s?

Presents were often homemade. Scarves, hats and gloves might be hand-knitted using wool unravelled from old jumpers and homemade preserves were welcome presents.

Find out what it was like growing up in a prefab at Christmas or discover the history of the 1940s prefab at the museum.

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