Christmas of Yesteryear
The 1940's, 50's, 60's & 70's

Join presenter Thomas Mace-Archer-Mills on a musical journey through the decades of the 1940’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s to discover what it was about these decades that made Christmas, and the music of each decade, so festively special. Crown & Country Radio’s four part series, Christmas of Yesteryear, provides the musical history of Christmas throughout the decades, together with the sounds of, and the history associated with each of the past four decades, Crown & Country Radio is proud to present this specialty Christmas programme series. 

1940s

The 1940’s – a decade of war and peace. Whilst Britain and her American ally were in the midst of World War II during the first half of this decade, the way Christmas was celebrated was a lot different than it is today. Decorating for Christmas was not as commercial or luxury inspired, but rather that of simplicity, mostly out of necessity. While the men were off fighting the war in the European and Pacific theatres, and many of the women filled their jobs and duties on the home front, most ladies at home would try to make Christmas as normal as they could for their children, by encouraging their children to write Christmas cards to their fathers off at war, to make these soldiers so far from their families feel as though they were still a part of the festivities. The Mrs. and kids would make large care packages to send to father sometimes a few hundreds, but often times thousands of miles away. Inside these care packages would be cards, candies, cookies, pictures, and other treats to transport the Christmas festivities to the front, sometimes to far off remote islands in the south pacific.

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1950's

The 1950’s was a decade where aluminium Christmas trees came in vogue, when bubble lights were all the rage, and when Barbie was not only introduced, but the must have doll for young girls, after all, what is Christmas without toys? Consumers went crazy in 1950 over the release of Silly Putty, and again in 1952 when Hasbro introduced Mr. Potato Head, to which there was not a plastic potato in the box as we know there to be today, therefore children had to use a real potato. For adults, Beehive hairdo’s and Christmas cocktail parties were all the rage, complete with h’orsdouvres consisting of foods in miniature, and the latest musical hits released saw the popular doo wop groups of the time top the charts. What’s the Christmas season without a little doo wop?

 

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1960's

The swinging 60’s was a decade dominated by fiscal frugality, and tremendous social change especially within the United Kingdom.  The era of monochromatic Christmas trees, colour wheels, tinsel, etcha-sketch and the Christmas card clothesline, were indicative of a forward-looking nation whilst respecting time honoured and treasured traditions. The 1960’s saw post war rationing and austerity very much in the nations recent memory, keeping the early years of the decade in a feeling of frugality and homespun festivity when compared to our Christmases of today. If the 1950’s were indicative of the male dominated do-wop groups, the 1960’s was the defining moment of the famed girl groups that gave us such memorable songs, especially by groups such as The Ronnettes, The Crystals, The Shirelles, and The Supremes to name a few. This first song in our 1960’s Christmas line-up, Santa Clause is Coming to Town, is covered by the fantastic all female group, The Supremes, with Diana Ross as the lead. A premier act of Motown records, Diana Ross and the Supremes, were founded as the Primettes in Detroit Michigan in 1959. One of the top female groups of their age, the Supremes are to date, the most successful American vocal group with 12 number one singles on the Billboard hot 100. At their peak during the 1960’s, the Supremes rivalled the Beatles in worldwide popularity.

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1970's

The disco days of the 1970’s, a decade which has often been described as an era between eras, where the Christmas record truly came into its own and when Christmas celebrations were low tech, but filled with traditional fun. Music and television stars of the 1940s and 1950s still made appearances on the radio and television with Christmas releases of their own, and appearances on the popular programmes of the day. Gifts, toys, and fads of the 1070s also seemed caught in a time paradox with popular toys and action figures produced in a Star Wars theme, which were the hottest toys of the late 1970s. Video games were introduced in the 1970s, however this is not what they were called “video games” then, they were simply known as a “television gaming apparatus”, with only a simple console and a game named pong. Here in Britain, Christmas music took on a life all of its own with the 1973 Christmas clash between two of the best well known British groups of the decade, Wizzard and Slade with their Christmas favourites, I wish it could be Christmas every day, and Merry Christmas everybody. In 1974, Mud and Johnny Mathis went head to head with their Christmas covers of Lonely Christmas and When a Child is Born.

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