With Christmas just around the corner, now is a great time to reflect on the festive season in years gone by. The Second World War - often referred to as WWII - occurred between 1939 and 1945, meaning six Christmases were experienced during this turbulent time.
It can be easy to get caught up in a whirlwind of present buying and overindulgent eating during the festive period, especially if you’ve got kids. So why not seize the opportunity to teach your children how people used to spend the holidays during WWII? Perhaps you could treat your kids to a present that informs them about this time, like a model plane or an educational book. Such items are available to purchase from a range of high street stores and online from sites such as the RAF Museum shop. Moreover, you could broach the subject of WWII and discuss the following Christmas tales with your little ones.
During the Christmas period, it was hard for people to get their hands on basic food items, let alone luxurious gifts. Presents were often handmade using recycled materials, with children’s toys even being made from scratch. People tended to make their gifts useful and practical and an attitude of ‘make do and mend’ was adopted among many.
Greeting cards were usually small and made from low-quality paper as a result of limited access to materials. During the war, the government enforced a rule that meant shopkeepers were not to provide any paper to wrap up goods for their customers. This was to conserve this particular type of material. One of the downsides of this was that it made it difficult for people to keep their Christmas presents a surprise from their family members.
Gas and electricity were not always available, so managing to pull off any sort of Christmas dinner was considered a success. Turkey was generally too expensive to buy, so most families opted for another type of meat. Vegetables tended to be home-grown and Christmas cake was usually missing its main ingredient - dried fruits - as very little fruit was imported at this time.
As a lot of men went off to war, this meant there was a lack of ‘manpower’ when it came to cutting down trees. Because of this, a lot of people chose to buy artificial trees instead. Also, aluminium and tin were in short supply, so many families created their own decorations. Magazines even featured patterns and how-to guides to show people how they could make ornaments using natural objects, such as pine cones. Using soap powder and water, some people even created their own fake snow to brush onto the branches of their Christmas trees.
Telling your kids these interesting facts should provide them with a thought-provoking insight as to how Christmas was for people during WWII.
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