Of all occasions in life, Christmas has to be the main occasion to bring about a big, throbbing sense of nostalgia.
Because so much of the joy of Christmas is aimed at children, once we are adults and Christmas comes round again we can’t help but hark back to those magical childhood days. Those were the days before we knew what ‘commercialism’ meant, before we had to learn how to cook a huge turkey dinner for 12 in a tiny oven and before we experienced the aching boredom of waiting for 20 minutes at ‘Collection Point A’ in Argos.
All the while that we are worrying about money and running around trying to buy ‘perfect’ gifts, we bemoan the loss of Christmas magic in adult life.
Our minds are filled with warm, happy memories of robins and angels behind advent calendar doors, singing carols in school, the appearance of tins of chocolates in the house and the knowledge that all of this was leading up to the main event – a visit from Father Christmas.
We find ourselves thinking that Christmas was actually much better in whatever era we spent our childhood days. I was born in 1976 so my memorable childhood Christmases were those of the 1980s.
I recently got to thinking that perhaps that whole idea of Christmas magic really does get to live on if we just keep in our hearts and heads those wonderful Christmas memories from our childhood.
And so, to hell with it – I’m going to enjoy a great big nostalgia trip! Would you like to join me? Excellent! Lets have ourselves a very eighties Christmas!
(Photo courtesy of the Woolworths museum)
December – the big build up.
The very first sign that Christmas was coming was getting out the advent calendar. Note I didn’t say ‘buying the advent calendar’. In the early 80s, you got an advent calendar and it came out year after year no matter how many of the doors fell off or wouldn’t shut any more. And obviously, these calendars didn’t contain chocolate! They featured a tiny picture of a robin, a star, a piece of mistletoe, a dove… We all opened the little doors with glee each day.
Slowly but surely the shops would start filling up with Christmas decorations. Not like today when it starts when you are unpacking your summer holiday case. The adverts for toys you wanted soo much appeared on television and the Argos book was regular reading…
See anything from these pages that was on your wish list?
(Argos pages from a huge collection of 70s/80s Argos catalogues collated and compiled by retromash.com)
The next big ‘oooh it’s nearly Christmas!’ moment came when copies of the Radio Times and TV Times entered the house. The excitement was palpable. Everyone in the family had their biro at the ready to circle their own personal choice of festive TV. It didn’t matter how many times you had seen some of the Christmas shows or films before, it was Christmas and therefore you had to watch certain things. Which brings us on to…
“Christmas telly was so much better – and there were hardly any channels!”
For ease, I’m going to simply list what springs from my memory as the mainstay of Christmas television viewing in the 1980s. These are the shows and films that we knew would be on before the TV magazines were even in the newsagents…
Morecambe and Wise. The Two Ronnies. Only Fools and Horses. Porridge. Russ Abbott. Cannon and Ball. Orville. The Generation Game. Blankety Blank. Play Your Cards Right. All these shows were hyphenated with ‘A Christmas Special’.
In terms of films there was always a James Bond film. Jason and the Argonauts. H G Wells The Time Machine. A variety of Carry On films. Airplane. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Other imperative Christmas viewing was of course The Queen’s Speech which your grandma wanted to see at three O’clock and Christmas Top of the Pops where you would find out who had secured Christmas number one. It’s worth noting that it was the 1980s that really gave rise to the Christmas record with the likes of Wham, Slade and Shakin’ Stevens belting out what have become Christmas classics!
What we ate.
The Christmas dinners that I recall were the traditional roast turkey, Paxo stuffing, roast potatoes and sprouts. We may have sometimes have had parsnips but if we did I can say with certainty that they absolutely weren’t honeyed… For that matter the roast potatoes didn’t have rosemary anywhere near them and there were no glazes, compotes or ‘delicate blends of herbs and spices’. Christmas pudding was served with Bird’s custard and if you were lucky it had a few coins inside wrapped in tin foil. If you were really pushing the boat out then you might possibly have had another dessert option in the form of Arctic Roll or Vienetta!
Suddenly at Christmas the house would contain significantly more chocolate in the form of tins of Quality Street, jars of Roses, boxes of Matchstix and After Eights. And then there was the selection box!
What would you eat first, your Fry’s Peppermint Cream or your bag of Treets? The Flake or the Marathon?
Bowls were dotted around the living room containing chipsticks, twiglets and unfamiliar nuts in shells (which obviously no-one ever touched).
When it came to having a drink, some fancy Babycham glasses might appear. As a child I always liked to drink my lemonade from one of these at Christmas and look at the cute little leaping deer. I still love the Babycham deer now!
Finally, the thing that made Christmas magical. The thing we were building up to from that first star behind door number one on the advent calendar. The arrival of Father Christmas!
“He’s been! He’s been!”
You’d spent ages writing your list. You had gazed at the little flocked or glittered Santa’s hanging on the tree. You had quite possibly had a visit from him at school or even been to see him at the biggest shop in your town centre but on the 24th December you felt giddy with excitement that the man himself would be paying a visit to your house. There can be no other feeling as magical as that felt as a child when it grew dark on Christmas Eve. I vividly recall looking into the night sky at the twinkling stars, feeling quite sure I could hear the distant tinkling of sleigh bells. I would dutifully place a mince pie on a plate for Father Christmas with a carrot for Rudolph (absolutely no packets of ‘Magical Reindeer Food’ back then!) and then climb under my Victoria Plum duvet and will myself to fall asleep.
Christmas mornings were filled with sheer excitement as the whole family ventured tentatively down the stairs to see if the man in the red cloak had delivered what we had been longing for…
(Me, Christmas 1984 with my longed-for Sindy house!)
So, much as I could have gone on reminiscing, I will bring this blog post to a close. I hope you’ve enjoyed looking back on an 80s Christmas.
As a mum of four children myself now, I don’t doubt that for one minute they will look back on the Christmases of the 2010s and reminisce how magical they were. And that’s because the magic is not perhaps in the era, but in the memories of childhood, of being completely carefree and most importantly, of believing that magic does exist.
So, I’ll keep close to my heart my 1980s Christmas memories of tinsel around picture frames, spiky Christmas trees that actually smelled of pine, Woolworths lametta and plastic moustaches in Christmas crackers.
I’ll have a quiet thought for my loved ones who aren’t here any more and I’ll feel incredibly lucky for having the happy memories that I have (in between all the shopping, gift wrapping, cleaning, cooking …).
So, lets raise a glass of Babycham to those wonderful 80s Christmases – cosy, warm, magical and in our hearts forever.
Thank you for reading x
Do you have any nostalgic Christmas memories you’d like to share? Feel free to comment here or pop over to my facebook page!
Happy memories! Christmas 1982