Rationing at Christmas – 1940s

Despite rationing and the absence of relatives in the armed forces, people did their best to enjoy their wartime Christmas, as this recollection shows.

Rationing removed from the shops many things that people had taken for granted before the outbreak of war in 1939. Some would not return until the late 1950s.

Despite this, and the absence of fathers and brothers who had been called up, people did what they could to celebrate, making do with what they had to hand.

The following account of Christmas on the home front was contributed by Shirley Brittan of Bromsgrove to WW2 People’s War, an archive of second world war memories gathered by the BBC .

Christmas during the second world war, 1940s

We always had a small Christmas tree which we decorated with our pre-war decorations. These were very much cherished and carefully wrapped up each year in tissue paper — even the paper was carefully used over and over again. I still have some of these decorations together with some brought during the war, which were made out of tin. Christmas Day was always shared with grandparents and any luxuries hoarded during the year, came out to make a Christmas cake or trifle. My Grandad and Granny Blackwell kept pigs. During the War you had to give the council half of every pig you reared. Every part of the pig was used. My Granny was very good at making brawn and sausages and a side of the pig would be cured to make bacon. Anyone who had helped to feed the pig with scraps would receive a small portion of meat when the pig was killed.

I would spend hours making paper chains out of newspaper which I would colour and be allowed to use some precious flour to make paste to glue them together. Christmas cards were sent a few days before Christmas — again mostly homemade…I never remember going to church at Christmas although we went every Sunday to pray for Dad. Father Christmas usually found me at Washingstocks and would leave me a stocking full of fruit, a shiny new sixpence, a piece of coal — I think that was for luck but it was also very useful for keeping us warm! Pencils, hankies and knitted clothes. Granny Blackwell also bought me a piano and paid for my lessons so some music might also be in the stocking. We never had individual presents from the family, everything was sent to Father Christmas. We had the wireless for entertainment and we all loved playing card games. There were many Christmas Whist Drives in the area and I played Whist from the age of 3 and we all won many prizes.

Source: Shirley Brittan/WW2 People’s War.