Christmas giving to children was much less excessive in the past.
Santa – or Father Christmas as he was called in a less Americanised world — tended to fill stockings with an orange and an apple, chocolate coins and maybe real coins like a sixpenny or threepenny piece, other sweet treats and little things like crayons and small toys.
Among other joys, I remember receiving a yo-yo, a set of jacks, an autograph book and a troll with orange hair during the 60s, objects which stayed with me for an absurd number of decades before being mysteriously teleported to other horizons by children, nieces and nephews.
There were no mounds of brightly coloured plastic to rival the North Atlantic garbage patch on the living room floor then.
Just one or two special toys for the kids—a bike maybe, doll, teddy, train set, space hopper— kids who in those days had very few clothes, let alone possessions of any sort.
Presents were dictated more by affordability and need, and the desire to give the recipient something they couldn’t perhaps buy for themselves, especially in the days when women didn’t have the opportunity of earning their own money.
Aberdeen department stores offered socks, gloves, ties, scarves, hankies, diaries —perennial favourites and lumped into the ‘boring but useful’ category.
But from a modern perspective, there could be a few curveballs. Here Esslemont & Macintosh presents a lovely selection of gloves for Christmas 1965, including real hogskin, lambskin and goatskin. Vegan options would be highlighted these days.
Then there was the hand-knitted jumper made by elderly relatives for one or possibly all members (victims?) of the family.
And toiletries all round.
Boots was the go-to for toiletries —beautifully wrapped bath cubes, remember them? They fetch good money on vintage sites now— and other pleasant smelly things for the ladies.
That was about the length and breadth of an average Christmas before consumerism took off in the 1980s.
But if you did have a little wherewithal, department stores were there to encourage some wallet-emptying on that special someone in your life.
A rummage through our archives reveals what Aberdeen stores were offering to Christmas shoppers in decades past through the medium of the P&J’s pages.
Isaac Benzie here in 1933 offering elegant bed jackets, while Falconers went big on fur coats.
The most expensive one here, in natural squirrel (don’t shoot the messenger) is 40 guineas, more than £3,500 in todays money.
The man in the advert for Golden Rapide shirts at E&M in 1971 looks vaguely sinister. His fine Rocola shirt costs more than £70 in today’s money.
And great joy for the man of the house in 1964 at Elena Mae’s in Union Street.
Still and cine cameras, projectors and accessories. A Sankyo cine camera cost £40, upwards of £1000 today.
You’d be hard pushed to find anyone wearing anything more substantial, and in many cases considerably less, than the garments below on a Christmas night out these days.
Yet they were Kayser Bondor underwear, on sale complete with what looks like French knickers (are they? and wearing them doesn’t seem obligatory, better just to wave them about) at Falconers in 1955.
A gift that dare not now speak its name was ubiquitous in decades gone by — tobacco.
“You’ll always be right to give Players, especially at Christmas time,” the unabashed advert proclaims in 1951.
And finally, simply because of the dreadful play on words, if not the artwork, enjoy this one from 1951.
Let us know in the comments below what sort of treasures—or otherwise— you remember receiving in your Christmases past.
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