Christmases Past

In 1859, the editor of The Argus suggested in 100 years Australians would have forgotten the “old Christmas” and have given Christmas a new feel with eucalyptus and acacia decking the halls. Old Christmases were English Christmases of snow, mistletoe, and roast goose all remembered fondly by the early pioneers.  I think 157 years on he’d be slightly surprised but relieved to see aspects of those English Christmases still return each year.

“CHRISTMAS IN AUSTRALIA” by Nicolas Chevalier 1865. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria

In 2011, I wrote five Christmas posts covering the Victorian pioneer years 1850s to 1890s.  The following year, I wrote six posts covering the years 1900s to 1950s.  In each, I tracked Christmas over the decade, looking at new trends and old traditions.  You can read each post by clicking on the decades listed below…


1850s While some lamented the warm weather, others were enjoying the chance to spend Christmas Day outdoors.

1860s Weather was still a focus but others got on with the “new” Christmas.  Shops decorated their shops and markets were busy

1870s  Father Christmas was in the papers and still, some yearned for an English Christmas.

1880s Christmas cards were popular and shop decorations continued with Mr Osborne of Portland out doing all with thirty-four lamb carcasses hanging in his butcher shop window.

1890s Newspapers articles on decorating homes for Christmas were prevalent.

CHRISTMAS DINNER. (1940, December 21). The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982), p. 37 Section: The Homemaker. Retrieved December 19, 2012, from

CHRISTMAS DINNER WOMEN’S WEEKLY STYLE. (1940, December 21). The Australian Women’s Weekly (1933 – 1982), p. 37 Section: The Homemaker. Retrieved December 19, 2012, from


1900s  The decade of Federation and the first decade of many ahead which would have family members away at war for Christmas.  Wicker prams for girls and pop-guns for boys were popular gifts.

1910s  WW1 brought a change to Christmas celebrations due to rationing and loved ones overseas. Christmas billies for the boys at the front were the focus for many.

1920s  Although the war was over, the 1920s were not without hardship with high unemployment among returned servicemen and families adjusting to the loss of the breadwinner.  Kodak made a push into the Christmas gift market. By the end of the 1920s, Wall Street crashed and a “Buy Australian” campaign began.

1930s  The depression brought austerity and a simpler Christmas. Economic conditions improved in the later part of the decade and there was a return to prosperity.  Electric household goods as Christmas gifts were all the go from 1936.

1940s – Another decade with loved ones away, economic uncertainty and the lingering concern of invasion.  War inspired toys were prevalent and the Australian Women’s Weekly was a go-to for all Christmas cooking ideas.

1950s – The 1950s saw the arrival of television and once again loved ones at war.  American culture began to infiltrate Australian households as it had never done before.




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