How has Christmas changed in the last 50 years?

Posted on Jan 17, 2020 Tags: , ,

Does your Grandma or Granddad ever tell you about “the good old days” and how Christmas has changed? Here we look at how the festivities have changed in the last 50 years!

  • Geese have become turkeys. To be fair, people were having turkeys for Christmas even 50 years ago. But they were less ubiquitous than they are now. Goose was still the traditional Christmas meat – served usually with apple sauce and a citrussy glaze. Those who couldn’t get a goose ate chicken. But, over the past few decades, the allure of those plump, meaty turkeys has conquered the goose. Now, nothing says ‘Christmas’ like a roast turkey with cranberry sauce.
  • We shop online. Some people say that online shopping is killing the High Street. However, those of us who remember what Christmas shopping used to be like before Amazon may feel a guilty twinge of relief when we stroll with ease around the shops in December. Gone (well…mostly) are the crowds, the pushing and shoving, the queues, the impossibly full car parks, the bare shelves, the battles over those ‘must have’ Christmas toys…Say what you like about the digital marketplace – it’s made Christmas shopping a whole lot less stressful.
  • Black Friday is a thing now. OK, it’s never really taken off in Britain. But we are definitely more familiar with the concept of pre-Christmas sales than we used to be. Back in the day, retailers would actually raise prices for Christmas ‘must-haves’ in December (and then bring the prices crashing down again in the January Sales). However, one Great Recession and a seismic shift in consumer behaviour later, things are very different…
  • Christmas markets are also a thing. Decades ago, the closest you’d get to a ‘Christmas market’ in Britain would be Market Dave putting a bit of tinsel on his veg stall and playing ‘Jingle Bells’ from his cassette stereo. If you wanted that grotto-like extravaganza of food, drink, and Christmas goodies you’d have to go to the source (Germany or Austria). In the 80s and 90s, however, German-style Christmas markets went global. Now they’re a Christmas institution, with every city vying against its neighbours to have the most Christmassy of Christmas markets.
  • Advent calendars have chocolate in them. Advent calendars used to have pictures in them rather than chocolate. Essentially, they were thin bits of A4 cardboard with religious (usually) scenes painted on them. You’d peel open the windows and find more religious (usually) pics inside. One day there would be a donkey behind the door. The next day, a shepherd. The last window was always a bit bigger than the rest, and it always had a picture of the baby Jesus. Oh, and there were only 24 windows – not 25. Now, advent calendars have 25 windows and are full of chocolate. Yum!
  • We decorate outside more. Decorating the outside of your home for Christmas always used to be an American thing. Brits, being more reserved, used to consider a gaudily decorated home exterior tacky and show-offish. But improvements in battery and lighting tech mean that we’re more inclined to decorate outside our homes for Christmas than we used to be. While we don’t take it to American extremes, every neighbourhood has at least one house which puts on a Christmas display. Many people decorate their houses to raise money for charity, which is nice.
  • Freezers mean more food and more leftovers. Domestic freezers are a thing now, which means that our Christmas consumption is not bound by the limits of food perishability. We can stuff ourselves to our hearts’ content, and then freeze the leftovers. We can also get in way more food than used to be the case, knowing that we can safely freeze it until it’s needed.
  • Shops open on Boxing Day now. Boxing Day used to be off-limits for retailers, but changes to the Sunday Trading laws (which also took bank holidays into account – not just Sundays) mean that the January Sales can start a day earlier than they used to. Lots of people are, however, calling for retailers to do the decent thing and stay closed on Boxing Day in order to give their staff a decent Christmas.
  • Netflix. Back in the day, you didn’t have a lot of choice over what you were going to watch after Christmas dinner. You’d slump in front of whatever the terrestrial channels were offering (usually the same old Christmas films and sketches, with maybe a spooky story from the BBC and/or a hit’n’miss costume drama from ITV). Now, with the arrival of Netflix, Amazon Prime and the rest, we’ve got unlimited choice in our Christmas Day entertainment. Which, admittedly, can cause family friction. At least when there was no choice there was nothing to argue about…

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