Christmas is great, but it’s hard not to look back and wonder if it was even better in the days before iPads, smartphones and festive adverts that began in October. Here are a few reasons why Christmas in the 1980s was so special...
Suddenly, plastic Christmas trees weren’t just green they could be white or even silver. The lights and baubles were still as big and as colourful as possible, while tinsel wasn’t just for the tree but to drape over pictures, stair bannisters and everything in between.
You used up at least two rolls of Sellotape putting up your Christmas cards because back in the 80s people could still afford the stamps to send them. The only trouble was that a few cards flew off every time you opened the front door and had to be hastily reattached, using yet more Sellotape. By Christmas Eve you had given up and decided to just leave them on the telephone table instead.
EastEnders may have been a relative newcomer on the block having launched in 1985, but its Christmas Day episode the following year would go down as one of the most memorable moments in soap history.
Den and Angie Watts were Walford’s answer to Richard Burton and Liz Taylor, and more than 30 million tuned in to see the jawdropping moment when Den served up divorce papers along with the Christmas pudding.
Slightly more cheery fare was served up by Del Boy and Rodney as the Only Fools and Horses Christmas specials became a favourite festive fixture.
By the time Return of the Jedi hit cinemas in 1983, Star Wars fever had well and truly taken hold, which meant the not-so-lifelike plastic action figures were a staple in many a Christmas stocking. The luckiest young fans might even find a prized Millennium Falcon, the must-have toy of the early 80s, under the tree.
Other coveted goodies included Cabbage Patch Dolls, Transformers and the ubiquitous Rubik’s Cube, while Big Trak was sold as a programmable educational toy but, according to the advert, the six-wheeled truck’s main use was for delivering apples to your dad.
The 80s were also the era of the BMX – you had seen Elliott ride a flying one in ET and chances are you wanted one for Christmas. There was even a TV programme in its honour – ITV’s BMX Beat – with youngsters up and down the country suffering scraped knees and elbows as they attempted to recreate the stunts they saw performed on screen.
Those with more practical parents probably unwrapped a Raleigh Grifter at Christmas, which was far more sensible but useless for pedal wheelies or bunny hops on account of being built like an East German tank.
The 1980s Christmas experience can perhaps be summed up in three words. After Eight Mints. The green box and black paper wallets of chocolate joined the bowl of mixed nuts walnuts and brazils as a festive tradition in many a home.
The more adventurous Christmas Day menus featured prawn cocktail starters amid the usual turkey and trimmings, with a sherry-laden trifle on Boxing Day, obviously.
For that sophisticated touch, Christmas dinner would be washed down with Asti Spumante sparkling wine, while beer drinkers might enjoy a few cans of Hofmeister, Harp or Carling Black Label.
In 1980 St Winifred’s School Choir’s There’s No One Quite Like Grandma tapped into the market as a perfect gift for grannies around the country, with former Coronation Street star Sally Lindsay among its members. Shakin’ Stevens got a look in with 1985’s festive classic Merry Christmas Everyone, keeping Wham’s Last Christmas off the top spot.
One of the most popular Christmas songs, The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York, was beaten to the top by the Pet Shop Boys in 1987. The following year, Mistletoe and Wine made a winning combination for Cliff Richard.
But the festive song of the decade was undoubtedly Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas, which hit the number one slot in 1984 and again, with a new cast of performers, in 1989.