1940’s Christmas On The Home Front

In the 1940’s, while America was in the midst of World War II, the way Christmas was celebrated was a lot different than today. Decorating for Christmas involved the idea of simplicity, mostly out of necessity.

While the men were off fighting World War II, moms at home would try to make things as normal as they could for their children, and would often encourage their children to write Christmas cards, and to make their fathers feel as though he was still part of the festivities. Mom and kids would make large care packages to send to their dad. Inside these care packages would be cards, candies, cookies, pictures, and other treats to really try to bring the Christmas spirit to their men.

Some people believe that the holiday shopping season that now begins well before Christmas.. actually began during  World War II because it took so long for a package to reach our troops. Merchants began encouraging people to shop early for the season to make sure the packages would arrive in time.

Christmas is a wonderful time of year, and whether it is now or then, the holidays are a time for families to gather and show their love for one another by spending time together to decorate a tree, share a meal, and give each other heartfelt gifts.

1940’s Yuletide Facts:

  • During World War II Christmas trees were in short supply because of a lack of manpower (to cut the trees down) and a shortage of railroad space to ship the trees to market. Americans rushed to buy American-made Visca artificial trees.
  • In 1941, a five-foot Christmas tree could be purchased for 75 cents.
  • The shortage of materials—like aluminum and tin—used to produce ornaments led many people to make their own ornaments at home. Magazines contained patterns for ornaments made out of non-priority war materials, like paper, string, and natural objects, such as pine cones or nuts.SC184611
  • Electric bubble lights were created during the 1940s and remain popular even today.
  • To give their Christmas tree a snow-covered effect, people mixed a box of Lux soap powder with two cups of water and brushed the concoction on the branches of their tree.
  • Fewer men at home resulted in fewer men available to dress up and play Santa Claus. Women served as substitute Santas at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City and at other department stores throughout the United States.
  • “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and “White Christmas” were both written during the 1940s and quickly gained popularity with the war-weary, but optimistic, population.
  • Travel during the holidays was limited for most families due to the rationing of tires and gasoline. Americans saved up their food ration stamps to provide extra food for a fine holiday meal.
  • Many Americans threw their German blown-glass ornaments and exotic Japanese ornaments in the trash as soon as the war began. Shortly after the war, Corning Glass Company in New York began mass-producing Christmas tree balls using machines designed to produce light bulbs. Corning could make more ornaments in a single minute than a German cottage glass blower could make in a whole day.

Yuletide facts compliments of The National WWII Museum

Merry Christmas!


Comments 5

  1. This brings back many fond memories of the 1940’s. I remember those years vividly. My dad was drafted into the Army and served his time. Christmas during that decade stands out more than any of the others and I’ve been blessed with 74 of them. That’s why it is called “The Greatest Generation”.

  2. Christmas lighting was also a casualty of the War. The War effort shut down the manufacturing of “non-essential” items, which included Christmas lights, in the spring of 1942. When the War ended in August of ’45 there wasn’t enough time to re-tool manufacturing to meet the demand four months later. NOMA completely sold out of all the lighting they could manufacture in ’45, ’46 and ’47. It wasn’t until 1948 they met the demand. Speaking of Bubble Lites, they went into full production in 1946 and by the end of the 1950 Christmas season NOMA had sold over 150 million of them.

  3. Everything was scarce cut the tree down on our farm. Being only one in 1940 relied on my parents sharing their memories. Still have some ration stamps. Most people nowadays had no clue.

  4. 1940- We still spoke German at home in Utica NY. Christmas was a moving festival. Sunday before was a little party at parental grandmothers, Eve was gathering of extended family ,dinner party, singing and presents, Christmas Day , to downstairs,(English speaking), party , then to back apt (we were 2nd floor front) then upstairs and then windup with cold cuts and libations in our apt. Sunday after, at Uncle Fritz and Aunt Mariechen ,also gathering of family, dinner and pinochle . New years to maternal Grandparents “on the Farm” -10 miles south of Utica, dinner and we bring presents, receive eggs, potatoes, a chicken and walnuts.

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