Australia began the 1910s with innocence but by decade’s end any innocence had gone, snatched away at faraway places unheard of in 1910 like Gallipoli, Fromelles and Beersheba. Children hanging Christmas stockings in 1910 ended the decade without fathers, brothers or even their own lives. The decade started with the usual, even frivolous reports about matters such as fruit supplies and ended with life trying to adjust back to those carefree times, but with the stark evidence of missing faces at the Christmas dinner table.
Fruit was in abundance for Christmas 1910 with oranges from Spain, bananas and pears from France and California. Shoppers could also buy novelty fruits such as avocado and persimmons.
The Portland Guardian raised Christmas spirits dampened by wintry weather. They reported on the many Christmas shop displays around the town.
There were always Christmas pudding recipes in the papers.
Christmas 1911 saw the shops of Colac go all out with their window displays. Mr Stephen’s Enterprise House was the place to go for grocery and homewares supplies. He stocked hams and cheeses and a range of Christmas delicacies and even a new fly-killing preparation, essential for an insect free Christmas lunch in Australia. Mr Stephens also stocked a range of alcohol including Seppelt’s wine, port and sherry.
Christmas Eve 1911 in Portland saw the usual hustle and bustle. It was an evening to catch up with old friends back in Portland for Christmas while children soaked up the festive atmosphere. The Ozone Coffee Place was just one of the shops with an elaborate window display of lollies and sweets. By evening the butchers and bakers had sold out of their goods.
In 1912, the Colac Herald noted the change in Christmas gifts and cards over the years. Christmas cards with traditional English Christmas scenes had given way to gifts such as books by Dickens, Kipling and Thackeray all available cheaply. Books of Adam Lindsay Gordon’s poetry were also a popular gift in 1912. Likewise for children, toys had changed. Toy planes and modern toy soldiers pushed leaden soldiers aside.
From ox tongues to magic lanterns, block cakes to dolls, The Portland Store Pty. Ltd. could cater for all Christmas 1912 shopping needs.
More recipes. Have you ever had bread sauce on your turkey?
Science based toys were popular in 1913 including planes, submarines and phonographs imported from England and Europe. Simple toys were out of fashion according to one importer.
WW1 began in August 1914 and Australians were given a warning in October of that year. “More than one Christmas will pass” before the war would end.
Cheap poultry fed on biscuit crumbs were on the menu for Christmas 1914.
The Colac Herald acknowledged those suffering during the Christmas season due to the war.
“We have reason to hope that out of this season of deepest trial, of cruel warfare and of untold suffering, there will come a day when the world will be assured of years of peace, when not so much consideration will be given to weapons of warfare, but the thoughts of mankind will be turned more and more to improving the conditions under which so many people have to live.”
Despite the events overseas, Casterton had plenty of Christmas cheer as described in this lovely article about Christmas in Casterton, 1914.
During Christmas 1914, Australians felt there was hope the war, the big adventure, would be over by Christmas 1915. Instead, by the time that Christmas came around the realities of the Great War had come home, with the horrors of Gallipoli the awakening. Christmas thoughts turned overseas, with the comforts of the soldiers on that December day utmost in the minds of family. Christmas billies and packages were sent overseas to give the boys a touch of home.
The Lady Mayoress of Melbourne placed an order for 37, 000 Christmas puddings for the troops. Country folk could send 1s 3d to the Patriotic League and a card would be attached to a pudding with the donor’s details and the key to open the tin.
Warrnambool sent 300 Christmas billies to the front in 1915.
A sample of offerings from the shops of Colac for Christmas 1915.
The Figaro Brisbane was a long way from the Western District, but their sentiments about Christmas 1915 are worth sharing.
By January 1916, news was getting back to Australia about how troops sent Christmas Day in Cairo.
On October 14th, 1916 between 9am and 1pm, 1002 parcels and 114 mail bags left the Western Station, Ballarat bound for the Expeditionary Forces.
Residents of Port Fairy could give a fowl for a soldiers’ Christmas dinner at the Caulfield Base Hospital.
A Christmas Box Wanted From You was the catch cry in September 1916. How nice, what a lovely thought. But it was not a Christmas pudding or biscuits the boys wanted in their boxes from home. They wanted tobacco and a lot of it, especially as the Army was spending £25,000 a day on tobacco and cigarettes.
Stuck for Christmas gift ideas? Consider making a calendar. One can never have too many calendars. Put one in every room if need be!
The “Everlady’s Journal” Christmas edition had everything a lady needed to know for preparing for Christmas with the limitations the war brought.
A recipe for an old English plum cake that would keep for six months.
Father Christmas handed out gifts to the children from the South Warrnambool Presbyterian Church Sunday school at a Christmas tree party in 1917.
August was the cut off date for Christmas parcels being sent overseas for Christmas 1918. This was a change from 1917, when the parcels sent in September were not distributed until January.
The A.I.F. Christmas book had “the finest collection of war photographs”. The book became available to the public in 1918.
A call went out to country folk to give poultry for Christmas 1918. The goal was 1000 pair of victory chickens for soldiers in hospital in and around Melbourne. Dispatch centres were set up in towns such as Timboon, Port Fairy, Macarthur and Penshurst.
With the end of WW1 in November 1918, the message for Christmas was “Peace on Earth”.
The streets of Ararat were busy on Christmas Eve, 1918.
The residents of Port Fairy were feeling a renewed Christmas spirit in 1918, stocking up on food and clothing.
At Wail West in the Wimmera, locals were dusting off their picnic blankets for a Christmas picnic, revived from pre-war days.
Those making phone calls on Christmas Days 1919 faced double rates.
At last, the future was looking brighter when Christmas 1919 arrived as it was the first Christmas since the Treaty of Versailles was signed and the second since fighting had ceased.
Christmas 1919 in Horsham was busy and businesses added greenery to verandah posts along Firebrace and Wilson Streets.
The last Christmas of the 1910s went off with a bang for the residents of some Western Victorian towns. Residents of Clear Lake, Vectis and Hamilton to name a few saw a heavenly body come to earth on Christmas Day 1919.