I love Christmas, but like to keep it simple and easy. The tone of the nation — sombre and a bit grim — makes it easy to keep the holiday in my preferred way without seeming morose or Grinch-like.
For years, I’ve been fascinated about how ordinary people made the most of a difficult situation, particularly how Americans and the British got through the Depression and the Second World War. It is a useful reminder that we aren’t so far removed from the dreadful economic situation that afflicts so much of the world. It is also a reminder that cheer, commonweal, and hope are not essentially tied to the trappings of the holiday.
There are a lot of reasons that the British remember the deprivation more than Americans: their children (now elderly) were relocated, the Luftwaffe bombed their land, and rationing lasted years after the war. What I didn’t expect was an almost romantic (if not fond) recollection of the era. Googling on the subject, I even found people wanting to cook rationing-era Christmas dishes!
In case you’re interested, too, these sites are among the best on the subject. Again, the Brits do the best:
- “Toys in Wartime (US Government pamphlet)
- “Ten Ages of Christmas: World War Two (BBC)
- Christmas at War (Imperial War Museum)
- The Cabinet War Rooms (London) will even sell you a ticket to relive a wartime Christmas. Sounds a bit Hyacinth Bucket to me, but otherwise no comment. Christmas at the Cabinet War Rooms. [2009. They don’t seem to do this any more.]