Christmas is a time when we put our normal routines on hold and enjoy the holiday spirit.
However, during the 1939-45 period, "normality" was a loose concept for civilians and military alike. The holidays took on an even greater significance during this time with everyone looking forward to the familiarity of the festive season, and the feeling of family and friendship associated with it.
Soldiers were most affected by this. Deployed in the furthest corners of the world, most of them had never been away from their loved ones.
Each military unit did what it could to honor the season, but the harsh realities of war often took precedence over holiday traditions.
Check out our photo gallery and some interesting facts depicting how the Allies spent Christmas during World War II.
Christmas During World War II
- During World War II, Christmas trees were in short supply due to a lack of manpower to fell them and a shortage of means of transportation to ship the trees to market. People rushed to buy artificial trees.
- In 1941, a 1.5m Christmas tree could be purchased for 75 cents.
- The shortage of materials like aluminium and tin used to produce ornaments led many people to make their own ornaments at home. Magazines contained patterns for ornaments made out of non-priority war materials, like paper, string, and natural objects, such as pinecones or nuts.
- Electric bubble lights were created during the 1940s and remain popular even today.
- To give their Christmas tree a snow-covered effect, people mixed a box of soap powder with two cups of water and brushed the concoction on the branches of their tree.
- Fewer men at home resulted in fewer men available to dress up and play Santa Claus. Women took the role at some department stores.
- "I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and “White Christmas” were both written during the 1940s and quickly gained popularity with the war-weary but optimistic population.
- Travel during the holidays was limited for most families due to the rationing of tires and gasoline. People saved up their food ration stamps to provide extra food for a fine holiday meal.
- Many people threw their German blown-glass ornaments and exotic Japanese ornaments in the trash as soon as the war began. Shortly after the war, Corning Glass Company of New York began mass-producing Christmas tree balls using machines designed to produce light bulbs. Corning could make more ornaments in a single minute than a German cottage glass blower could make in a whole day, albeit not of a hand-crafted quality.
- With British soldiers away in Europe, war-hit families in the United Kingdom were issued with an urgent plea to invite their US colleagues to share their Christmas celebrations. GIs proved a festive hit due to their tendency to share rare rations with their host families.
- From 1939 onward, the BBC's special Christmas Day radio programming would include a speech by the King, an event which became an annual ritual and continues to this day.
- Keen to decorate their bases, the soldiers would hang "chaff," strips of metallic foil thrown from their aircraft to confuse German radar.
From all of us here at Wargaming, we wish you Happy Holidays!