I don’t know if it’s just that I was a kid at the time, but Christmas seemed more exciting and magical in the 1980s… or maybe it was because things were simpler back then, without distracting smartphones, less overwhelming choice and just having to make do with what was available to us.
I was born in 1976 and by the time the 80s started I was 4 years old. At the end of it I was 14, so much of my childhood was spent in this decade. The overarching theme I remember at Christmas was getting the things we wouldn’t have any other time of year – new toys, special food, films we had never seen before on TV, along with events and activities to look forward to at school. So that is why it was more exciting… we just didn’t have access to this stuff at other times of year, and it gave us something to really look forward to.
So let’s start with toys & gifts… the Argos catalogue was THE bible for making your Christmas list (long before website wish lists)! We couldn’t wait for it to come out, and would then take it in turns to initial the items we wished for. Mine probably included Barbie or Sindy Dolls, Care Bears and My Little Pony. My brother would have chosen He-Man, Lego and Star Wars. This wish list was then passed on to Santa of course! As we got older we asked for early tech, like a Walkman, boom box stereo, hand held computer games or a portable TV for our room. Plus pop music – on tape, then later on CD. Also videos of our favourite films, or comedy series. The 80s was probably the first time kids and teenagers could listen to their own music or watch things on personal devices, rather than with the rest of the family. I remember also receiving a board game each year (my favourites were Guess Who and Connect 4), plus an annual, probably Beano or Whizzer and Chips. Then one year Mum bought me a diary and I diligently filled one in every day for the next 4 or 5 years, in my attempt to be like Adrian Mole!
When I was a small child, the thought of Santa coming on Christmas Eve was so exciting. I would sit at the bottom of our multi coloured Christmas tree starting at all the pretty lights and decorations (which would have been from Woolworths) just waiting for the big day to arrive – and it seemed to take ages, counting down the days on my advent calendar. I could never sleep till very late the night before either – my poor Mum! Anyway once it finally arrived, we would find a stocking at the end of our beds filled with little toys on Christmas morning, and then as we went downstairs would see all the new presents under the tree just for us. So wonderful!
Once the presents were opened, my Dad would then go and get whichever grandparents and extended family members were visiting us that year, whilst Mum started on the Christmas dinner. We watched festive cartoons on TV, played with our new toys and then once everyone arrived, Dad would switch over to the Top of the Pops Christmas special… the best part was finding out what was the Christmas Number 1 that year! The Queens Speech would follow, and after dinner we usually played family board games before watching the Only Fools and Horses Christmas Special, or a blockbuster 80s film for the afternoon. Ghostbusters, Gremlins or Back to the Future were special favourites! Christmas evening would be the Eastenders Special (I remember the one with Den and Angie vividly still to this day!) and probably something like Morecombe and Wise or the Two Ronnies afterwards. TV was the next best thing to look forward to on Christmas and getting the Radio and TV Times double issues (you had to get both) was again an event in itself, with us all underlining what we would like to watch or record (yes there was no catch up TV then!). Christmas evening once everyone had gone home, my Mum always wanted to go out for a little walk (don’t blame her!) and I would go with her too admiring all the Christmas trees you could see through the windows on our street. I don’t think many people decorated the outside of their house with lights then – that became more popular in the 90s. I remember too that it always seemed colder at Christmas!
Apart from Christmas in our house, the events leading up to the big day at school and other clubs made it all seem so special also. Of course the main event was the Nativity play. I was usually a shepherd or an angel – the latter would have been a costume made by my Mum from an old white sheet and a coat hanger covered in tinsel for a halo! It was so cute seeing kids in a school play and all the proud parents in the audience. I was a member of the Brownies too and every year we went carol singing, collecting money for charity. Finally there were several opportunities to see Santa, either at the local department store, the Rotary Club float that came around the streets just before Christmas or at the school where my mum worked there was a special party put on for local kids each year and Santa would come at the end with a gift for us all!
So there we have it, my own memories of a magical 80s childhood Christmas! What do you remember the most? What’s your special era and favourite memories? Do share in the comments below!
Love Rachel x
This post is written by Rachel Toy, owner of Rachel’s Vintage & Retro. I am a vintage enthusiast writing about a Vintage Lifestyle, focusing on the Vintage Home. I also sell a wide variety of vintage household items from kitchenalia, to homewares such as linens, mid century glass, brewerania, furniture and collectable toys on my Etsy Shop.