*This article was updated on 19/08/2022*
In the last blog we looked at Christmas in the 1960s; a decade of overall optimism, excitement and change.
By contrast, the 70’s has been described as a decade of poor economy, high inflation, employment struggles and strikes.
However, despite this gloomy background, it is remembered by many with great fondness, warmth and humour (the clothes?!) and after taking a little look at the troubles we’ll focus on the lighter-hearted aspects of this decade...
...after all, it IS Christmas!
What started the problems of the 1970s in Britain?
In 1973 the UK was hit by an oil crisis that sent the price soaring.
Firms started to lay off workers. Inflation rocketed and there were no wage rises.
There was mass unemployment amongst young people and those in public services and this triggered many strikes and protest marches as trade unions struggled to reach agreements with governments.
Dissent was rife.
The 1970s ‘three day week’
There was major industrial action by miners with much tension and violence.
For a couple of months in early 1974 a 3 day working week was implemented by the government to conserve electricity.
Some people have fond childhood memories of evenings spent in candlelight, but it can’t have been much fun for the adults!
Britain in 1978-1979
The decade ended with yet more strikes and was called ‘The Winter of Discontent’, a culmination of various problems.
Empty shelves in supermarkets and fuel shortages and the coldest winter in 16 years meant an extremely challenging time for people.
In many places rubbish lay everywhere as refuse collectors striked, and embalmed bodies waited in warehouses due to grave diggers striking!
But – the 1970s in Britain were not all bad!
Despite its bad reputation, there were many positives during this decade.
- There was more disposable income which meant Britons could spend more on things like labour-saving devices, new entertainment systems and toys (more on these later!).
- In 1971 Britons took 4 million holidays abroad and by 1973 this was 9 million!
- Music in the 1970s – a memorable decade ending with the rise of Punk culture.
- 1970s fashion – bright, bold colours, platform shoes, maxi dresses, flares, Punk…
It was hugely influenced by the music whether that be glam rock, boho/gypsy style, folk-rock or Punk. A wide range of tastes!
Oh and the haircuts of the 1970s?!
- Straight n sleek
- Long hair for men….
You could choose from many and laugh at the photos later!
British Christmas in the 1970s
With true Brit grit, despite the depressing troubles, Christmases were celebrated and enjoyed much the same way as the previous decade but perhaps a little less homemade.
Food was more bought than grown and decorations were increasingly bought especially from Woolworths which, by the late ‘70s, had become the ‘go to’ shop.
People tended to put the tree and decorations up just a week before Christmas though children had Advent calendars (the NON chocolate sort!).
Favourite food for Christmas in Britain in the 1970s
- Turkey and trimmings
- Christmas pudding
- Bubble n squeak
- Prawn cocktail
- Quiche Lorraine
- Vegetables in aspic (cooks becoming more adventurous!)
- Pate shaped into domes or trees!
- Cheese footballs
- Iced Gems
- Blue Nun wine
- Black Tower wine
- Bailey’s Irish Cream
- Corona Pop
- After Eight mints
And not forgetting nuts and nutcracker in a bowl!
N.B The Hostess Trolley had made an appearance – great excitement for hostesses!
What were in kids’ selection boxes in the 1970s?
- Fruit polos
- Jelly Tots
- Bar Six
- Milky Way
- Amazin’ Raisin bar
Popular Christmas gifts in the 1970s
- Brut aftershave
- English Leather aftershave
- Charlie perfume
- Anais Anais perfume
- Gift sets – including talc and bath cubes
- Soap- on-a-rope
Surely a Christmas hamper was one of them?!
Britain’s popular Christmas toys in the 1970s
1970 – Nerf Ball, the world’s first indoor ball.
1971 – Mastermind.
1972 – Roller skates (strapped onto shoe sort) /Uno card game.
1973 – Chopper bike.
1974 – Dungeons and Dragons/Twister/Spirograph.
1975 – Othello, board game.
1976 – Magna Doodle.
1977 – Star Wars figures.
1978 – Hungry Hippos.
1979 – Trivial Pursuit.
Annuals for kids were also very popular.
Christmas TV in the 1970s
There were three channels to choose from and programmes were listed in the TV and Radio Times.
On BBC1, Christmas Day started with carols at 9am followed by Basil Brush, a family church service, a charity appeal, The Queen, Billy Smart’s circus, Disney Time, Morecombe and Wise plus a couple of films.
Closedown was around 11pm. More variety than in the previous decade and definitely more for children.
Favourite Christmas Films of the 1970s
- Scrooge (1970)
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1975)
- Miracle on 34th St (1977)
- A Flintstone Christmas (1977)
And some Christmas songs from the 1970s
- Step into Christmas – Elton John
- Merry Christmas Everybody – Slade
- Lonely this Christmas – Mud
- Mary’s Boy Child – Boney M
- When a Child is Born – Johnny Mathis
What a decade the 1970s was!
- The first Pan Am Boeing 747 jet landed at Heathrow, heralding the era of global travel
- Britain went decimal
- Rose Heilbron became the first woman judge at the Old Bailey in London.
- First microwave went on sale
- First VHS video recorder
- First Sony Walkman
- The fastest passenger plane in the world, Concorde, was put into service
- The Queen’s Silver Jubilee
- The Equal Pay Act came in
Shell suits, perms and developing technology: the next blog is British Christmas in the 1980s!