The public were discouraged from giving presents and encouraged to give as much as they could to the war effort. Almost £10 million in war bonds was sold in the week before Christmas. Consumer goods were becoming scarcer as the war wore on but a theme of air-raid-shelter-friendly presents emerged. Flasks and sleeping bags were in demand and even ‘gas masks’ for dolls.
Home-made presents were popular too, as were second-hand ones. For working-class people ‘make do and mend’ was the norm. Dads carved sailing ships and dolls’ houses, whilst mums knitted with spare bits of wool and made sweets. Children’s gifts were also donated from other countries and charities.
Admiralty Christmas Party for Allied Naval Officers’ children, 1942. This photograph shows ‘Father Christmas’ presenting Winston Churchill Junior, the Prime Minister’s grandson, with a gift of a book of nursery rhymes at a Christmas party at Admiralty House.
S Army Pfc. Carl Anker, Pfc. Edmund Dill, and Sgt. Ted Bailey sharing the contents of the care package sent by Dill’s wife for the Christmas holiday, somewhere in Europe, 18 Nov 1944.
Wartime Christmas on Guadalcanal.
3rd ID Christmas dinner, Italy, 1943.
Christmas shopping, 1945.
U.S. Soldiers Caroleers Circle Globe.The Christmas spirit is universal, the traditions unchanging even in the midst of war. Where ever our American troops are to be found throughout the world Christmas Carols will be heard in joyful hymns on the eve of the Nativity of Christ. In Iceland – “O, Come Ye, O Come Ye, To Bethlehem”. 1942.
US 5th Armored Regiment tankers gathering around a fire and opening Christmas presents, near Eupen, 30 december 1944; note M4 Sherman tank.
Soldier admires drawings on Christmas V Mail being sent to America from U.S. troops stationed in England, 1942.
Shown are WACs of the 2nd War Company, Norfolk Air Base, Barracks A, HRPE, seated around a Christmas tree with their mascot dog.
Left to right: Cpl. Michael J. Sabagh [381st HQ] of Lawrence, Mass., Pvt. Larry H. James [2021st Fire Platoon] of Campbellsville, Ky., Cpl. Goldmer S. Elkins [2003rd Fire Platoon] of Cyclone, W.Va., and Cpl. Thomas Hallingam [330th SS] of Pittsburgh, Pa., trim a Christmas tree for a party given for homeless children somewhere in England. 13 December 1943.
Post office at Christmas time, Oak Ridge, 1944.
Even Father Christmas follows the war time safety precautions as he arrives this year, complete with tin helmet and gas mask case, at London’s famous Brompton road store, Harrods. 6th November 1939.
This is a sad memorial – In New York City, 1944, piles of Christmas packages meant for American Servicemen who have been listed as missing or killed in action build up and await a Return to Sender stamp.
War or no war, London stores are determined to have their usual pre-war Christmas season and display. 14 November, 1941.
Canadian soldiers enjoying a few drinks on Christmas Day at the front, Ortona, Italy, December 25, 1943.
A Christmas party held at Admiralty House, London, 17 December 1942 for allied naval officers children. ‘Father Christmas’ in a costume and mask presents a young girl with a gift.
US Army Pfc. W. J. Kessler, Pfc. J. L. Proffitt, Pvt. B. Narter, Cpl. T. J. Barnewski, and Pfc. J. Stoll handling Christmas packages from home for their artillery unit, Germany, 26 Nov 1944.
An American soldier shares presents from home with Italian children during Christmas.
December 1940 in a British bomb shelter.
US Army Sergeant Joseph H. Kadlec delivering Christmas packages sent from home, near Aachen, Germany, 14 Nov 1944.