Christmas in the 1940s
World War II defined the first half of the 1940s, associated with images of Rosie the Riveter as women went to work to replace the men who’d left for the war. Television arrived later in the decade, as did the very first computer and the traditional American diner. Forties-era toys included the Slinky, Tonka trucks, and Silly Putty.
Your Christmas Budget in the 1940s
Representative prices for items popular during the decade are difficult to establish with certainty, because many prices fluctuated wildly during the war. These appeared in newspaper and magazine ads during the ‘40s.
Cigarette case: $9.95
Zippered rayon ladies’ robe: $6.98
Upright vacuum cleaner: $49.90
Electric iron: $2.49
Electric coffee maker: $6.98
Roller skates: $9.95
Magnetized soldier doll with American flag: $4.00
Tiddlywinks game: 39 cents
In News in the 1940s
Pearl Harbor Brings a Different Kind of Christmas
While preparations are going on here, in a mild way to be sure, due to wartime conditions, our little British cousins across the seas have not been overlooked. Old Santa, that kindly bewhiskered man, will pay them a visit through the thoughtfulness of the relief agencies here. . . . Of the many thousands (of) toys of various types and descriptions sent across the seas by Bundles for Britain, most of them are soft dolls and animals made from scraps of materials in the sewing looms . . .
—New York Times, December 21, 1941
The Power of Christmas Across the Centuries
From the centuries between [the first Christmas] and now, come stories of holy men, of bishops and peasant-saints, and of brave men who preached…Christ to the Vikings of the north or on Iona’s isle. As in popular belief, with each returning eve of the Nativity the miracles of the first Christmas happen again, so in these tales the thorn-tree blossoms anew and wonderful roses bloom in the bleak forest.
—From the foreword to The Christmas Book of Legends and Stories, a popular 1944 release
Enter Bing Crosby, Singing
There’s a lot to be said against a White Christmas. It is awkward, trying to fit an old-fashioned Christmas on a new-fashioned, hard-surfaced world, obliterating its familiar signposts, cunningly disguising its modern dangers, hiding its unpleasantness under a soft veil.
But here it is, the enchanted world you looked out on as a kid, white, mystic, beautiful, through which jovial creature half fat man, half spirit came riding, a transformed world in which anything could happen. All you had to do was believe hard enough that it could.
Listen! Sleigh bells? Do you suppose there is such a spirit, after all?
—Providence Journal, December 24, 1947
Christmas Advertising in the 1940s
More than 3 million faces testify!
The Schick Shaver is a gift men really use! Swell for service men! Soldiers, sailors, or marines . . . because they can be plugged in at camp or on a boat—and work!
—Ad appearing shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor