Christmas in the 1970s: Technology-Free and Full of Polyester


Ahhhh, Christmas in the ’70s. If you were a kid during that time, you definitely have some special, enduring memories. There was no internet, cable TV, Facebook, or Instagram. We enjoyed the holidays the good, old-fashioned way — technology free! Can you dig it? Let’s see if your memories match up with some of ours.

1. Waiting Patiently for the J.C. Penney and Sears Catalogs

Every year in December, my sisters and I couldn’t wait to get the latest J.C. Penney catalog in the mail so we could start picking out the gifts we wanted from Santa. We didn’t have Amazon or Ebay, so these catalogs were every kid’s eye candy. Every year I wanted white ices skates so I could be just like Dorothy Hamill!


2. Mom Would Start Getting the Christmas Menu Together

Nobody was vegan or had a”gluten” allergy in the ’70s, so people ate whatever they wanted. Our menu usually consisted of ham (with pineapple rings and cherries on the top), green bean casserole, ambrosia salad with lots of marshmallows, gelled cranberries (rings from the can included), a nutty cheese ball with crackers, deviled eggs — and don’t forget the relish tray. The pie table was the best, but usually included fruit cake. Yes, hard to believe that was an actual dessert that people ate!

family pic 1

3. Coordinating Christmas Outfits

Who didn’t have coordinating, floor-length red and white empire-waist dresses that your mum made herself? For the boys it was a plaid, polyester bell-bottomed suit and a wide tie. If your friends saw you in this outfit, you were definitely getting beat up. And Santa Claus was terrifying…

family 2

kids awful bell bottoms

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4. Time to Decorate the Tree

Getting a fake tree was all the rage (at least it was for my fam)! The goal was to get a Scotch pine that looked and felt real! We would spend time decorating the tree as a family, although my mum was the foreman for the job. We had ornaments made out a styrofoam that were covered in silky fabric, German glass bulbs, fake snow, and icicle tinsel (not just a little tinsel, but a ton of tinsel). The bulbs were huge and got hot, but did we worry about a fire? Nah, just throw on more tinsel. And don’t forget the ceramic tree!

ceramic tree

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tree with lights

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5. Saving the TV Guide for Christmas Specials

Back in the ’70s there were no DVRs or even VCRs, so we relied on the trusty TV Guide to tell us when our favorite Christmas specials and variety shows would be on. “Frosty the Snowman,” “Rudolph,” “The Andy Williams Christmas Show,” and “The Osmond Family Christmas” were a few we all loved.

6. Christmas Music Filled the House

It didn’t matter what our mothers were doing in the house — cleaning, cooking, or helping us with homework — during the season Christmas music was always on the Hi-Fi in all of its 8-track glory. Maybe give the turntable a spin with some Bing Crosby or The Carpenters if the 8-track was eaten by the machine. No i-pods to speak of!

7. Go to the Liquor Store and Stock Up

Families in the ’70s seemed to always have a full bar stocked with Crown Royal, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, wine, spiked eggnog, Harveys Bristol Cream, and don’t forget the red and green maraschino cherries to finish off your Tom Collins! Your “uncle” Milt, who really wasn’t your uncle at all, would do drunken magic tricks through the billowing smoke from the cigarettes for all to enjoy! Vaping who?

1970's drink

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8. Let’s Dig Out Our Runner Sled and the Toboggan

In the ’70s it snowed about a foot every Christmas. My parents would pull out the toboggan and 6 of us would hop on and go speeding down the giant sledding hill by our house until one of us ended up crying from flying off the back. Then it was inside for hot chocolate and “The Muppet Show.” It’s currently 65 degrees and sunny in December!

snow 1970's

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9. Let’s All Pile in the Car and Look at Other People’s Christmas Lights

A little stalkerish? Maybe, but we loved driving around in my dad’s giant metal Chevy death machine to look at those twinkling displays. Somehow this tradition remained a favorite in our family. Today you can just watch someone else’s YouTube video and see lights that are synchronized to Metallica.

christmas lights

10. Honey, Get the Scotch Tape, the Christmas Cards are Arriving in the Mail!

When Christmas cards would start arriving in the mail, somebody at some point thought they would make great decorations on the door and all the way around your door frames. We were pulling tape off months later. Groovy!

christmas cards

11. Time to Cash out Your Christmas Club

You’ve waited all year to buy the little tikes that Big Wheel. The Christmas Club helped you save your pennies so you could do just that! Today people just put it on the credit card and call it a day.

12. Olan Mills Photo Shoot

Every year mom would dress us up in color-coordinated outfits and get dad a new butterfly-colored silky shirt to have our family photo shoot at Olan Mills (no Shutterfly back then). Mom would provide the comb so my sisters could touch up their “flicked” (feathered) hair. The wagon wheel added that something extra special. 8 x 10 glossies adorned the wall going up our steps for years.

olan mills

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13. Christmas Morning Has Finally Arrived

Dad would get the giant camera with the flashbulbs all warmed up while mum put on a pot of percolator coffee (no Starbucks) and the Carpenters Christmas album. The kids would open up gifts on the multi-colored shag carpeting, praying we got that Green Machine. After the gifts were opened and we cleaned up the mess, mum would get the Christmas ham in the oven and family and friends would arrive.

The parents would sit at the civilized dining room table and we would get to sit at the kids table with all the cousins — beating the crap out of each other (all out of love of course). Then the adults would play cards, smoke cigarettes, and have mixed drinks while the kids played with their Stretch Armstrongs and Donnie and Marie dolls in the living room. Oh, the smoke-filled memories!

13. Everyone said “Merry Christmas”

Merry Christmas was the term that most everyone used as a greeting during this special time. Stores were closed and the day was reserved for being with the family. Today, it’s Happy Holidays with everyone getting offended. Well, we will always say Merry Christmas!

What memories do you have from your ’70s Christmas? We’d love to hear your stories! Leave a comment below.