We Had Festive Fun (A Child View)


Christmas during WW2 was a mixture of happy and sad times. Although Hitler’s bombers gave us a respite, the Allies were ready and at home the Civil Defence stood by.

 Many were unable to share the festive time with their families, but Aunty BBC always put on a special edition of Forces Favourites, playing recordings of loved ones messages.

          Decorations –Chinese lanterns, paper chains and tree adornments were made out of scrap paper, gum and anything reusable.

          For the youngsters it was all part of the Christmas scene, despite the absence of exterior lights because of wartime regulations, dear old Father Christmas still made it.

 How did he find his way on a cloudy night when the moon was hidden, I wondered? My parents told me that his reindeer had special eyesight, but I was concerned that he may collide with a barrage balloon that hovered nearby.

In my home town, Soper’s departmental store in Harrow always put on a Christmas special for the kids, hosted by the man in the white beard.

          One day, his rocket took us to the moon and back, it moved and vibrated and seemed so real, such were the simple delights we enjoyed then.

The Harrow Coliseum theatre was alive and well producing extraordinary panto. Kodak work’s recreation society always staged a good panto, for which my dad always played French horn in the orchestra.

          The theatre, which sadly is no longer there, always attracted a full house, no war could stop the fun of Christmas the spirit, the energy and the hope for better times to come was abundant everywhere.

          The tradition to share Christmas with relatives was very strong, only the rich could afford motor cars but the buses ran until 3pm on Christmas Day, teeming with joyful passengers.

          My family used the No 18 route to travel to my grandparents in Wembley, in those days the seats were made with utility grade wooden slats, which made for a very bumpy ride.

          Despite stringent rations, most families managed to put on a good Christmas table, with mainly home made goodies.

          A chicken was the festive luxury bird then, and we reared our own in a chicken run in the garden.

          Plucking the bird was part of the ritual but what a mess the feathers made.

 Christmas puddings were made in the summer, usually a few silver threepenny bits thrown in for good measure. A count was made after consumption to ensure none had been swallowed!!

          On Christmas Day, everything would stop for the King speech in the afternoon, before we shared the giving of simple presents that conveyed love and good tidings at Christmas.

          Singsongs would follow, prompted by the sounds of the wireless, when Vera Lynn, Gracie Fields and George Formby were top of the British pops. Well loved comedians like Tommy Handley and his ITMA would also give us cheer.

          After Christmas, it was back to bread and dripping, sardines, American dried egg, carrot cakes, suet puddings, jam roly polys, winkles and bread and margarine.

          Food flashes were put out by the Ministry of Food, broadcast to help the housewife cope. It was simply amazing what could be achieved. Swede and parsnip with fruit flavouring were used as jam substitutes and potato Pete in reasonably good supply was always good filler.

          Gardens and allotments were in full swing, encouraged by the Dig for Victory slogan, and many families like ours, kept their own chickens.

          Former sports grounds Kodak works ground being no exception, were dug up and turned over for vegetable growing.

          Although their bells were silenced in the war, churches were a great comfort for many.

          There was always plenty to pray for.

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