December 22, 2020

Wartime Christmases

Preparations for Christmas in World War II England generated much excitement in my home. My mother, sister, and I made decorations out of cotton wool, sticky colored paper squares, beads, and greenery. We cut the paper squares into strips to make paper chains that, with my father’s help, we strung diagonally across the living and dining rooms. We made snowmen and other characters out of cotton wool. Their facial features, buttons, hats, and boots were made from the scraps of colored sticky paper.

Nothing was wasted during those wartime years. We arranged fresh greenery from our garden behind every picture. Our Christmas tree was live with big colored lights and homemade decorations. I still remember the scent of fresh pine that permeated our home.

On Christmas Eve, my sister and I would shout up the chimney our modest wishes to Father Christmas (Santa Claus). We were very aware that England was embroiled in a war and that there was a shortage of absolutely everything. The contents of our stockings were greeted with exclamations of delight. An orange was a real treat. The wrapped gifts we received were mainly homemade by my father in his woodworking shed or my grandmother, who was an excellent knitter and kept us supplied with mittens, hats, scarves, socks, and sweaters. A book, a board game, and a jigsaw puzzle usually rounded out our gifts.

My grandmother, mother and aunt saved food ration coupons to buy the necessities for our family’s traditional English Christmas dinner of roast chicken, stuffing, bread sauce, brussels sprouts, roast potatoes and gravy followed by Christmas pudding served with white sauce, individual mince pies and Christmas fruitcake complete with marzipan and royal icing. My grandmother used to hide silver three-penny bits, wrapped in waxed paper, in the Christmas pudding. She made sure that my sister, cousin, and I were each rewarded with one in our servings.

In spite of the fact that everything was homemade, there was plenty of love to go around in the wartime and post-war Christmases of my childhood.

Sally Dvorak, Resident