Wednesday, December 4

Have Yourself a Vintage 1940s Christmas

With our kids very much into World War 2 right now, we're coming up with all sorts of ways to incorporate that history into our studies.  Here is a Christmas unit study, easily tailored up or down for all ages, that begins with three novellas about the Turner family in "Where Treetops Glisten"...

About the Book...
Where Treetops Glisten (Tricia Goyer, Cara Putman, Sarah Sundin)
Turn back the clock to a different time, listen to Bing Crosby sing of sleigh bells in the snow, as the realities of America’s involvement in the Second World War change the lives of the Turner family in Lafayette, Indiana. In Cara Putman’s White Christmas, Abigail Turner is holding down the Home Front as a college student and a part-time employee at a one-of-a-kind candy shop. Loss of a beau to the war has Abigail skittish about romantic entanglements—until a hard-working young man with a serious problem needs her help. Abigail’s brother Pete is a fighter pilot hero returned from the European Theater in Sarah Sundin’s I’ll Be Home for Christmas, trying to recapture the hope and peace his time at war has eroded. But when he encounters a precocious little girl in need of Pete’s friendship, can he convince her widowed mother that he’s no longer the bully she once knew? In Tricia Goyer’s Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Meredith Turner, “Merry” to those who know her best, is using her skills as a combat nurse on the frontline in the Netherlands. Halfway around the world from home, Merry never expects to face her deepest betrayal head on, but that’s precisely what God has in mind to redeem her broken heart. The Turner family believes in God’s providence during such a tumultuous time. Can they absorb the miracle of Christ’s birth and His plan for a future?

Music Appreciation
A Merry 1940's Christmas (compilation)
The radio features often in the background of these stories, and it's easy to hear the songs woven into the plot.  By and far, our favorite holiday cd is this one!  With twenty-five different vintage gems, it easily conveys the spirit of the holidays during wartime.  It brings back a simpler time, a celebration of spirit and hope.  Some of the songs are classics, and other lesser-known ones will quickly become family classics.  Another option for music appreciation is A 1940's Christmas, though this one only has twelve tracks.

Turn back the clock to a different time, listen to Bing Crosby sing of sleigh bells in the snow, as the realities of America’s involvement in the Second World War change the lives of the Turner family in Lafayette, Indiana.

Living History (History & Comprehension)
The Christmas novella collection, Where Treetops Glisten, follows one family through World War II. This would be appropriate for students in middle or high school. The stories show what life was like for Americans both on the home front (rationing, shortages, loss, and worry for your loved ones) and abroad (harsh living conditions, danger, and separation from family).

Free printables : 

Food Rationing (Math)
During World War II, many items were rationed, including rubber and metals, but it was the rationing of food that most people noticed first!  Sugar, coffee, cheese, canned milk, canned fish, meats, processed foods, and butter were all rationed.  This meant that each family member was only allowed a certain amount, and some items weren't available anywhere.

Given the rationing, trying to grocery shop or cook was quite a chore!  Watch the videos below and see if you could keep track of the ration book...

Christmas Recipes (Home Ec)
The rationing made it more difficult to celebrate, but that just let to more kitchen creativity.  Oftentimes, ration points would be saved up for a special occasion, or people would barter and trade their points.  Here are the recipe for a cake without eggs and a simple, homemade icing.  It is similar to a carrot cake or zucchini bread.

Eggless Christmas Cake

  • 4 oz finely grated carrots
  • 2 Tbsp dark corn syrup
  • 3 oz sugar
  • 4 oz margarine
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 4 oz dried fruit (cranberries, apricots, raisins)
  • 12 oz self raising flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 6 oz milk, slightly warmed
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. Cook the grated carrots and syrup over a low heat for a few minutes. 
  3. Cream the sugar and margarine until light and fluffy. 
  4. Stir the baking soda into the carrots and syrup mixture, then beat it into the sugar and margarine mixture, treating it as if it were an egg. 
  5. Add a half teaspoon each of vanilla and almond extract, and stir in with the dried fruit.
  6. Fold in the flour and cinnamon, and add the warmed milk to make a moist dough. 
  7. Put the mixture into a greased cake tin (or use a fluted tube pan such as a Bundt pan). 
  8. Smooth the top, and make a deep hole in the center with a spoon, if not using a tube pan, to stop the cake from rising too much during cooking. 
  9. Turn down heat to 300 F and bake for 3 hours.

V-Mail (Language Arts : Writing)
Before the days of email and cell phones, it took considerably longer to reach loved ones overseas.  Sometimes, it would be weeks or months before a letter arrived, and several letters often arrived all at the same time. 

Victory Mail (v-mail) was the original's how it worked:
  1. A letter is written and sent to the military - the letter can only be one page long, including both addresses
  2. It is photographed, put on microfiche, and shipped overseas
  3. Once reaching its destination, the film is developed, printed, and sent to the soldier
Of course, it wasn't as easy as it sounds.  Mail was heavily censored, often leading to partial letters where family members had to guess, and it took a very long time to go back and forth.  But part of the 'War at Home' was keeping up morale and taking care of our soldiers!

Gift-Giving (Arts & Crafts)
Presents are one of the things that children look forward to most at Christmas, but during war-time, there were so many shortages that parents had to get creative for gifts.  During World War II, rubber and metal were rationed.
Presents were 'make do and mend.'  Many magazines printed instructions for embroidered bookmarks or calendars, knitted slippers and gloves, and toys made from scraps of wool, felt, plastic, or even old silver cutlery. Nothing was wasted and everything was appreciated.
  • Rubber was needed for the war - airplane and jeep tires, life rafts, and medical equipment - because of this, there was a shortage of bicycles, toy wagons, doll carriages, and rubber balls
  • Metal was needed for the war - ships, guns, helmets, tins, and planes - because of this, there was a shortage of bicycles, toy wagons, doll carriages, and other metal toys
  • Wood and paper were both plentiful, so many more toys were made of wood.  Cardboard began to be used for many things, including building sets and puzzles.  Coloring books also became more popular.
  • Plastics began to be used for making toys, and creativity sets such as Legos (which were invented in 1932) began to become popular.
  • Finally, war bonds were used as gifts.  A bond was purchased in the child's name (the money went to the war effort), and ten years later they could be cashed in for a gain of interest.
  • Here are some Christmas ads from a 1943 newspaper....what would you choose?
Practice : Create a piece of String Art, a Leatherbound Notebook, or an Embroidered Christmas Card - all with items from around your house!

Pick up the entire Home for the Holidays unit study bundle!

Get the entire World War 2 Bundle!


  • The Book Thief
  • We Were There at the Battle of Britain
  • Number the Stars
  • The Winged Watchmen
  • We Were There at Pearl Harbor
  • We Were There at the Battle of Bataan
  • Island War
  • Red Stars
  • The Night Witches
  • Mare’s War
  • We Were There at the Normandy Invasion
  • Code Talkers
  • We Were There at the Battle of the Bulge
  • The Light Between Us
  • We Were There at the Open of the Atomic Era
  • A Merry 1940s Christmas

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  1. My grandpa was in the South Pacific near the end of WWII, and I have been fascinated going through his letters to my grandma. This is a wealth of information and hours of stepping back in time for me that you have collected and put together here! Thank you so much!

    1. What a great story! My grandpa was in a similar place and time, but I've never found any letters. That's a wonderful piece of family history you've discovered! :)


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