David Powell was nine when WWII ended and said: “I couldn’t remember shops being lit up at any time, let alone at Christmas, and I had never seen Christmas decorations apart from the paper chains that we children enjoyed sticking together.
“I can remember being amazed when we saw the shops all lit up after dark and people out in the town shopping, with streets and shops ablaze with light.
“Money was still in short supply, so we never expected very much for presents. We still had Christmas stockings. It wasn’t possible to get much in the stockings but that was just as well, because there wasn’t much to put in them! We always had a few pieces of fruit, which was also a treat after seeing so little fruit during the war. Mum filled the rest of the stocking with whatever she could find, whether it be sweets or small toys. But it didn’t matter because the excitement of opening our stockings was still a thrill.”
Church followed and David and his big sister were part of the choir, then dinner was served mid afternoon and he recalls: “Christmas dinner was always very special with turkey, of course, and all the trimmings. I enjoyed sprouts then and still do.
“Christmas pudding was a highlight as mum poured brandy over it and lit it. We had to be careful as we ate it in case we had one of the lucky silver threepenny bits (later on to be silver sixpences).
“I have no idea how mum produced such wonderful meals with so little, because apart from having little money, we had to endure rationing until 1954.”
After dinner they gathered to listen to the King’s Speech on the wireless and young David spent the rest of the afternoon reading his new annuals before a tea of leftovers and jelly.
David said: “In those difficult times we valued what we had and expected little. So, our Christmases with the little extras that we enjoyed, couldn’t have been more special.”
Meanwhile, Alan Collins remembers the excitement of Christmas gifts from Canadian relatives in the 1950s.
He said: “During the years following the war, the availability of goods and foodstuffs were strictly limited, whilst the fashions and styles of the day could only be described as being dowdy and uninteresting.
“In Canada, however, that was certainly not the case with clothes for all ages colourful, different and cheerful.
“On Christmas mornings we would eagerly tear open our Canadian parcels and gaze in wonder at the carefully wrapped bright checked or corduroy shirts, and cheerful new pinafore style dresses. Never having seen these garments before and so different from our usual attire, we were so excited that we quickly tried them on and wore then all through Christmas Day.
“The parcel would also contain chocolate and “cookies” – a luxury that was not readily available where we lived in Scotland.
“I still cherish the memory and excitement which we experienced with those special gifts from Canada.”
On Christmas Day 1956, Trevor Menzies was 12 and living in Darlington with his parents and older sister.
He said: “ I was fast losing interest in presents beneath the tree or a pillowcase, that had been usual on previous Christmas Days.
“Previous Christmas presents had included a train set and Meccano, but I had no idea what this Christmas would bring.
“Christmas Day came, and we all began opening our presents. After a while my father winked at my mother, got up and left the room. Our house was a large, terraced property and one of the bedrooms was a hobbies room. A few minutes later, dad called me up and there in the middle of the room was a snooker/billiards table, all set up and ready to go. I was completely stunned at first. No way was I expecting a present like this!”
And the surprises kept coming: “After Christmas dinner was over, dad took me into the garden shed and produced a long brown canvas case. Imagine my excitement when I opened the bag and found a BSA 177 Cadet air rifle.
“I spent the rest of the afternoon being taught the rules and how to shoot at targets.
“In one day, I had discovered a whole new side to my father and together over the 40 years we accomplished many joint ventures together.”