British Christmas during World War Two

Tad pointed out a page from the BBC last year describing the holidays in London during the war. I’ve reproduced it below to share with you.

World War Two

Making do

‘In the present circumstances many people are asking, ought we celebrate Christmas at all? There can be no doubt that this is the very year when we should think, not less, but more about Christmas – not only as an escape from the horrors of war, but as a remembrance of nobler ideals.’

So wrote the editor of the Picture Post in December 1939. People were encouraged to spend available money, either on National Savings Certificates and War Bonds to support the war effort, or on everyday goods to support commercial traders. Where possible, this seems to have been taken to heart, and although Christmas during wartime was a greatly reduced affair, the spirit of the season remained strong.

Children regularly wrote to Father Christmas, and some families extended hospitality to those less fortunate than themselves. Their hope and kindness in a trying time proved that this exhortation from the Picture Post fell on receptive ears:

‘And if we are merry at Christmas, we shall be showing the Nazis that we are winning the war of nerves, and maintaining the gallant spirit which has overcome the adversities which are no novelty to this windswept isle.’

Good cheer abounded, but the Blitz did disrupt both Christmas celebrations and seasonal travel. Travel to family gatherings and even short shopping trips could be difficult. Rationing and the general lack of both luxury goods and daily foodstuffs meant that food preparation required patience and imagination. Sugar, butter, and eggs could only be acquired in small quantities, so substitutions, such as using grated carrots instead of sugar to sweeten cakes, were made.

Home-made decorations, such as paper-chains, and any available artificial decorations were used to enliven the home and offer cheer – despite the constant threat of bombing. A small artificial tree was a great asset, as it could be easily transported to the bomb shelter as required. One East End family had one made of goose feathers, which could be decorated with tinsel and paper decorations.

Published by

Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website:

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