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Dublin: 12 °C Thursday 17 October, 2019

Rations, Woolworths and waiting for Santa: Kids of the '40s share memories of Christmas

‘They were simple times which we recall for the rest of our lives.’

CAN YOU REMEMBER MUCH about Christmas from your childhood?

Growing up as a child in 1940s Ireland was certainly far removed from the Christmas that children experience today.

Three people who grew up during the 40s and 50s spoke to about their memories.

Alice, who grew up in rural Fermanagh in the 1940s, said she remembers “the candles in the windows as it was before we had electricity”.

I remember eagerly waiting for the postman with parcels from America and England.

“The cattle got extra hay and the turkeys escaped into the trees to escape being slaughtered.”

Donal Byrne, who grew up in Dublin, says he used to love Christmas when he was small and got a toy.

When my parents were alive, my mother used to bring us out to a shop called Woolworths and you’d go in and you’d pick a toy. It could be a little army lorry, I remember playing with it.

Chrissie Brennan grew up in Julianstown in Meath. Born in 1936, she can still remember details about the cooking, baking and of course, waiting for Santa.


“Post war times the ingredients had been hoarded over months and everything was rationed. Even the eggs came from a large crock where they had been carefully preserved during summer when they were plentiful.

Stirring the pudding was a great excitement and everyone had to have a stir and make a wish.

Describing the decorations, she said, “The house would be scrubbed and polished and beautifully decorated with holly from the local hedges – no mistletoe or flashing lights.”

Thinking back to visits from Santa, Chrissie said she remembers “lying in bed in the dark with my sisters”.

We poked at the bed-clothes at the bottom of the bed in the hope there would be a rustle which meant Santa had come.

“We wanted to keep alive the magic of expecting Santa although we had spent the last few weeks poking into every possible hiding place to see what ‘surprises’ might be hidden.”

I remember Daddy trying to light his pudding after pouring brandy on it and blaming the bad quality of brandy when it didn’t work.

“Later in the sitting room before a blazing fire we sang carols and songs with my sister playing the piano and Daddy on the fiddle.

“Such joy and happiness and wonder, without the glitter and glamour of modern commercialism … simple times which we recall for the rest of our lives.”

Have you memories from the same era? Or spoken to mothers and fathers about their childhood Christmas? Let us know your stories in the comments section. 

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