Christmas during the Great Depression

I really shouldn't be talking Christmas already, but perhaps I'm doing so because I am not much into the traditional dutch festivity 'Sinterklaas' which is celebrated the 5th of December. I never really celebrated it (except for when I was a kid) besides eating alot of chocolate Saints and pepernoten that comes with the festivity. I will celebrate it this year with my inlaws though - they don't celebrate Christmas but think of Sinterklaas as important perhaps due to the little nieces and nephew! Talking about Sinterklaas by the way; I remembered all of a sudden I still need to write a poem that goes with the gift; not quite my expertise you can say!!!


Last year I wrote a couple of blogposts about Christmas in WWII, which I coincidentally also wrote in november. See, I just cannot wait till Sinterklaas has returned to Spain with his helpers. The posts about Christmas in WWII can be found here: Part 1 and Part 2.

Christmas in the second World War was dire, but the spirits of people were not. The same counts for Christmas in 1930s; grandpa's were scraping together Santa Clause costumes and all the kids loved him. Times were hard but people carried on wishing eachother a Merry Christmas instead of saying: Aren't times hard? Christmas, during the Great Depression, was not about extravagance as we all know it these days; money and jobs were hard to come by and not everyone had a good meal on the table every day. The Great Depression called for creativity, as it would do a decade later. It brings nothing but deep respect for the people and how they coped and made the best of a bad situation.

These days, in the richer countries of the world, kids have toys galore. I have heard parents moan on what to give the kids this year's Christmas and that they had no friggin' idea! Cause let's face it ... most kids already have everything or are not thankful for small gifts anymore. In the 1930s, there were articles in magazines giving tips on how to make stuffed toys for children with cheap materials. When children woke up on Christmas day their knee stockings were usually filled with candy and raisins (dried on their stem), a large red apple and an orange (oranges were hard to get but a common Christmas gift) instead of a game computer. Sometimes children would find chocolate drops, nuts, walnuts and Brazilian nuts in their knee stockings. The children also got practical things; a warm pair of gloves, a scarf, a cap. Or sometimes even a pair of roller skates. Describing this dire situation you would think children didn't had much reason to be excited for Christmas ... or ... perhaps they had all the more reason?

A window shopping scene from the cover of the December 1932 Successful Farming magazine. 

Gift tips were also given! The magazine 'our girls', aiming at the younger women, opted to "purchase a bar of white soap of good quality and place it in a warming closet until it becomes easy to cut. With a sharp knife cut it into small soap bars, possibly 2 inches long, 1 1/4 inches wide and about 1/2 inches thick. The beauty of these bars come with the wrapping. Cut your decorative paper to size, and fold it around the soap and glue the flaps in place."


 The Christmas tree's, in most households, were pine tree's brought in from the nearest wooded area. The tree's were decorated with popped corn and red and green roping from either the stores or home made ropes from colored paper. Unlike nowadays, Christmas decoration was not to be found in stores in September already; almost no one had the time nor the money to decorate for Christmas until Christmas week. Most of the time it was even done on Christmas eve.

Two great Christmas traditions found their roots during the hardship of the 1930s; at this time it became common to buy the Christmas tree from Christmas tree farmers rather than finding them in the woods. The other tradition was leaving out cookies for Santa Claus.

We have many colorful ornaments from the 1930s coming our way to expand our ever growing collection and I am very eager to bring out the inner creative spirit in me and make us some Christmas ropes like they did during the Great Depression for the Christmas tree. Ofcourse Ben will find an orange in his sock when he wakes up on Christmas day! We are aiming for a real pine tree, although I have no idea how to get that upstairs to our apartment, through the restaurant without making a mess ... but hey, that's something for later! Secretly I am longing for the Christmas stress ;-)!

Part 2 on it's way. 
To be continued!


  1. Dear Lindsay, what wonderful posts about Christmas. Thank you to share the links for last year's posts that I avidly read. How can people change so much along the years. This actual consumption craziness led most people to such shallow life. I love the way of that nostalgic time where people was so creative and made things out of nothing with so much love in their hearts. All for the sake of love and unity. It was so meaningful! So rich!

    The pictures you chosen are absolutely fantastic! So beautifully expressive.
    Inspiring... Muito obrigada! :-)

    Miss Beta

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