THE spirit of Christmas has rarely shone as brightly in Yorkshire as it did in 1945, the first time the county had celebrated the festive period in peacetime for seven long, hard years.
With a steady stream of men returning from the battlefront following the Armistice, thousands of families across the Broad Acres found themselves reunited in celebration of the bold future that lay ahead.
War had ended with VE day back in May but austerity measures were still in place across Yorkshire and rationing meant that few families were able to lay on the kind of Christmas spread they had enjoyed pre-1939.
Getting hold of fresh meat was a major challenge for every housewife, and the Government ‘helpfully’ made available a number of inventive recipe ideas, including ‘mock turkey’ or ‘murkey’ which was sausage meat, breadcrumbs and vegetables moulded into a turkey shape and then cunningly disguised with strips of bacon.
Farmers had to remain vigilant because of the excessive cost of meat, and the hot demand for it on the black market. A laying chicken, for example, cost the equivalent of £200.
Whilst beer was freely available, other forms of alcohol were in short supply but most households were able to raise a toast at Christmas.
Paper remained scarce because of the continued danger to Atlantic shipping from unexploded mines, so colourful wrapping paper was a luxury item, as were home-made trimmings made from loops of coloured paper.
During the War, many toy manufacturers had switched to supplying munitions and with raw materials still in short supply, parents had to be at their most inventive to produce treats for the offspring.
After up to six years away on active service, many returning soldiers found it difficult to return to civilian life and levels of domestic violence increased as Christmas approached as the stresses and strains of re-establishing relationships took its toll.
Yet for most families, Christmas 1945 was a time of celebration and relief, and for those lucky not to have lost loved ones a time of great joy.
For the thousands of men in Yorkshire who had been employed in reserved occupations such as coal mining, the docks and steelmaking, 1945 was simply a case of ‘as you were’, albeit with an injection of optimism from the new Labour Government under Clement Atlee who had swept to power in July.
The mood across Yorkshire was one of hope; hope that after two bloody conflicts the world was finally ready to embrace a lasting peace and hope that the country could once again get back to living without fear.