Christmas in the 80s

1. The Big Movie

The Christmas Day movie was a BIG deal. In the 80s it took the best part of a year for a film to transfer from the big screen to video. Add to that the fact that videos could only be rented, so when Back To The Future was broadcast on Christmas Day, two years after it appeared in the cinema it was a huge event.


Beside the BIG movie of the day, we were also treated to “classics”.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was standard. There was always a 70s James Bond film (Can’t name any of them #SorryNotSorry). Christmas Day was always rounded off with either The Towering Inferno or The Poseidon Adventure which Your Mum would always watch. As soon Shelly Winters snuffed it on the upside down boat you knew Christmas was drawing to a close.

2. The Pillowcase

No-one in the 80s had spotted the gap on the market for mass produced seasonal stockings, so instead of hanging a pretty ornate red stocking above the fire we would chuck an empty pillow case on the sofa and wait for Santa to do his thing. 

Year after year we would wake to find them filled with the exact same items. A selection box, Brazil Nuts that could only be opened by your dad, an orange (WHY? WHY?  Why would Santa would put an orange in your pillow case when there were plenty of them in the fruit bowl ?) and a packet of these bad boys.

3. Decorations

No-one in the 80s had realised that Christmas could be classy. Tack and tat were the order of the season. Every house had these things stuck to the ceiling.


We were also big into paper chains. Home made paper chains. The height of elegance.

And everyone had a foil MERRY CHRISTMAS banner that bore the scars of past festivities, but was always hung up for “one more year.

4. More Telly

Christmas Day wasn’t just about the films. We had Christmas specials galore. 

Eastenders, Top of The Pops, Only Fools & Horses, and The late, great Victoria Wood would usher us merrily from early evening to Christmas night.

Bumper double issues of RADIO TIMES, TV TIMES and, if like me you were in Ireland, the RTÉ GUIDE. The TV planning happened days in advance and caused mayhem in households throughout the land as it was discovered that FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR clashed with CORONATION STREET and no-one could remember how to make the Betamax record one channel while watching another. We knew it could be done, but the eternal question was HOW? 

5. The Toys

Is it me or were we a lot less spoilt in the 80s?  Every year there was that one gift that you hoped for. It had probably been out for months or even years but you knew your only hope of getting it was for Christmas. 

As a result the anticipation on Christmas Eve had reached fever pitch. You were hours away from either blissful joy or bitter, bitter disappointment. And when you discovered the latest Sindy house or the Star Wars thingy that all the boys had was “in your pile” your relief couldn’t be contained. 

Of course we all remember that one year when Santa let us down so badly it took the best part of the year to forgive him. Christmas 1984. I specifically asked for the Make It Big album by Wham!. Santa thought this would suffice. 

Seriously. Not even remotely close Santa.

6. The Tantrums 

The inevitable end to the perfect day. The combination of over-excitement, over-tiredness and overdosing on sugar would result in the mother of all temper tantrums that took place anytime after 6pm on Christmas Day.

The trigger could be a flashback to earlier that day when you discovered Santa had brought you the Mini Pops LP instead of Wham!

It could be because your best friend Sharon Giles rang to say Santa had brought her the Wham! LP.

It didn’t even have to involve a Wham LP ( although my most epic tantrum did) . Whatever the reason , at some point on Christmas Day you’d find yourself sobbing uncontrollably on your bed, angry at the injustice of it all and vowing not to venture downstairs until this joke of a holiday was over.

You were, of course back in the living room before the start of The Poseidon Adventure, having sufficiently made your point. 

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