Three ways to bring the best of an 80’s Christmas to Christmas 2019
Nostalgia is a wonderful thing. For me, the ghost of Christmas past looks like an extra from a Wham! video, complete with back combed hair and a novelty jumper, because I grew up in the 80’s.
The Christmasses of my childhood involved teletext instead of twitter, and the Argos catalogue instead of Pinterest, a simpler time without unboxing videos and instagram influencers.
Not every memory is full of winter magic though, there were also a fair few itchy Christmas frocks and a lot of culinary disasters along the way.
With that in mind, I’ve put together a quickfire list of the best and the worst things about Christmas in the 1980’s to help you enjoy a little nostalgia.
You get one chance ...
Christmas telly in the 80’s involved hours pouring over the Radio Times and the TV Times in the weeks running up to Christmas, plotting your viewing with precision. The anticipation was part of the Christmas build up. In a time before Sky Plus and iPlayer, you had one chance to watch a show before it was gone forever, and clever scheduling by competing channels meant it was almost impossible not to miss out on something!
There would always be a BBC kids Christmas drama, memorably “The Box of Delights” or “The Chronicles of Narnia”. Whilst we kids might fidget our way through Den and Angie battling it out in East Enders, or moan at Dad’s insistence on watching the Boxing Day races, we all agreed it was Very Important to know who had secured the Christmas number one slot on Top Of The Pops and of course we gathered round merry faces a-glow to enjoy the Only Fool’s and Horses Christmas special.
These days, it never feels as special. Whatever is on will still be available on catchup, and haven’t we had all year to watch this or that blockbuster movie? We’ve tried to recreate the feeling by booking Christmas cinema trips, but it’s not the same as huddling round a 21” telly eating a Wagon Wheel whilst yelling “Shhhh it’s my programme!” to your siblings.
This year, the BBC is bringing us some quality nostalgic viewing with a remake of Worzel Gummidge starring Mackenzie Crook, and a “Call the Midwife” Christmas special, both of which are on my watchlist. To add an authentic 80's nostalgic feel, I'll be watching both in my best PJ's with a can of cherry coke and a Cadbury's selection pack.
Puffed sleeves / town centre shopping
Our Christmas eve trip to buy a special dress from Laura Ashley was always a highlight for me and my sister. No Ladybird crushed velvet in my house, it was Mrs Ashley’s finest frills for us. The Peter Pan Collars, the smocking, the tartan and best of all the puffed sleeves - what’s not to love about a dress that makes you look like a member of the Ingalls family?
Teamed with some Avon Tinkerbell perfume and a pair of Clarke’s magic steps shoes, I felt like the belle of the ball.
As much as I miss those puffed sleeves, these days I do love the comfort of a Christmas jumper. I’ll be wearing my “Jingle Belle” cosy sweater this year, and enjoying my new status as Belle of the sofa, but the tinkerbell perfume stays.
Pouring over the Argos catalogue.
Okay, so maybe it’s because the 80’s was the decade when Mattel perfected their advertising techniques, but circling toys in the Argos catalogue was a serious business. Sometime in November, the catalogue would mysteriously appear on the dining room table, full of every toy you’d seen advertised between early morning cartoons over the last few months.
There’d be the long list to start with, where you recklessly circled all and sundry that took your fancy, maybe a lesser known My Little Pony or a Crayola set with 25 colours, then the shortlist; going through a second time with a red pen to add stars next to the Most Important Toys.
I can remember frantically circling that snail Keyper, a funny little toy with a secret compartment that locked with a key, not to mention the MB fashion wheel and of course a ridiculously pricey A La Carte kitchen - after all, a girl’s got to dream. Somehow, clicking “add to wishlist” just doesn’t have the same charm.
To achieve that same sense of anticipation and excitement in the build up to Christmas these days, we’ve jumped on the “experiential gifting” train, and plan trips and shows together. To add some charm to an experiential gift, why not choose our “Elf Mail” card complete with a golden ticket describing the experience you’re gifting?
Three ways to avoid the worst of an 80’s Christmas ...
Looking back through a haze of nostalgia though, there’s some things that I’d prefer not to re-experience; Dodgy Christmas singles with naff snow scenes, disappointingly waxy makeup kits and powdery, lavender scented kisses from “aunties” you never saw the other 365 days of the year.
Here’s a few of the things that we’re happy to leave behind …
1.) Going through the Christmas lights to find the broken bulb
Nothing tests a marriage like twisting Every.Single.Bulb to find which one has killed the whole string of lights. Those big, spiky plastic shades that are worse to tread on than lego can get in the bin too. I’ll stick to my low energy LED’s with 5 different flash settings thanks.
If you’re truly desperate to re-create the family challenge of the annual hunt-the-bulb fiasco, try choosing a nice jigsaw to complete together. You can always loose a piece to add some authentic 80’s style frustration.
2.) Animatronic terrors
Few things are more terrifying than a dead eyed robotic elf repeatedly feeding an unresponsive reindeer the same handful of hay whilst turning his head left to right for seemingly no other reason than to show off his weird, maniacal grin. Add tinned Christmas musak on and endless loop, and you have the Christmas queue from hell.
Luckily, the lure of a plastic popper bead necklace or a polystyrene slot together glider would give me the willpower to make my way past the nightmare snow scene and safely into Santa’s grotto.
It’s been a while since we’ve visited a grotto, but our teens like an evening visit to the Christmas market on Exeter Cathedral Green for a bit of Christmas magic. I find queueing for mulled wine under a star strewn sky with a Christmas choir a lot more enjoyable than queueing for Santa ever was.
3.) 80’s buffet table deserts
Throat itchingly sweet chocolate log with the mouth feel of sawdust anyone? How about some slimy tinned pineapple burnt onto the bottom of a soggy cake? Or a dish of rubbery jelly topped with butterscotch angel delight that has a faint whiff of baby sick?
Unless you’re offering me mint choc Vienetta, you can keep your 80’s party puds to yourself, thanks very much.