As we all rush about in the final week before Christmas looking for last minute bargains or buying the must have Christmas gifts the kids want, I would ask you to look back with me for a while to Christmas 1940.
By the end of 1940, 24,000 civilians had been killed in the Blitz and hundreds of thousands more had been made homeless. In November, German bombers had carried out particularly fierce raids on Liverpool in the days leading up to Christmas. The public were now mourning the loss of their loved ones on the home front and in combat, as well as praying for the 41,000 British soldiers captured on the continent.
In order to avoid the bombs, many families spent some of the festive period in air-raid shelters and other places of refuge and decked out their temporary homes with makeshift decorations. Very short Christmas trees, if you could afford or get one, were in demand because of the height of the shelters.
Assuming that gas or electricity was available, Christmas dinner would have still been a triumph of ingenuity. Turkey was unaffordable and most made do with other cuts of meat, which were still expensive. A family of four's weekly meat ration probably wouldn't even cover the cost of a small chicken. Some people home-reared chickens or rabbits, much to the shock of young children who often regarded them as pets. Home-grown vegetables were also a bonus if you had somewhere to grow them
People would scrimp and save rations, including ham, bacon, butter, suet and margarine, but tea and sugar rations were increased in the week before Christmas. Very little fruit was imported and nuts were very costly. Consequently, cooks had to improvise Christmas cakes and puddings devoid of dried fruit and marzipan, using instead sponge or other unlikely ingredients. Alcohol was available but, at extortionate prices.