Christmas in the Legacy Collection: Food, Festivals and Seasonal Satire

Christmas in the Legacy Collection

Today, let’s take a look at some of the Christmas-related material held within the Legacy Collection…well, we think it’s Christmassy – let us know if you agree 😀

(Christmas) Recipes during World War Two

Winthewar cookbook

We’ve been working on listing official government publications recently from various Ministries, including a  few from the Ministry of Food. During the Second World War, the Ministry of Food was responsible for overseeing rationing in Britain to ensure the country didn’t run out of edible supplies.

Although not technically Christmassy, we couldn’t resist showing you this wartime cookbook. The recipes were written for the middle classes who had more income to spend on  food than others. The idea suggested in this publication seems to be that  if they ate less bread, there would be enough remaining to feed the working classes who couldn’t afford much else. As a result, the cookbook has messages along the footer of each page encouraging readers to give up their daily loaf! There are also a multitude of recipes for less-loved food; cheese herrings, anyone?

Winthewar2 Winthewar1










For more information about rationing, the Mass Observation Archive is your (local) place to go; it has an entire Topic Collection about food, and Sussex students and staff can search Mass Observation Online to find out more.

Satirical (Christmas) Cartoons

Low December

As much of the Legacy Collection’s material focuses on 20th Century events, it’s not surprising that commentators couldn’t resist using Christmas as a way of mocking political leaders. We hold a couple of books by David Low (1891 – 1963), a New Zealand born cartoonist who was based in the UK for many years. From 1927 –  1950, he worked for the Evening Standard newspaper. Low was particularly critical of Hitler and Goering (even before the war broke out), as you can see from the cartoons shown here. [1]

Low November


Song Book for Labour (Christmas) Festivals

You may have spied the Labour Song Book on this blog before, but it also fits surprisingly well into this month’s post. Alongside scores for a ‘Song To Labour’ and that well-known Labour classic ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’, the Christmas song ‘Jingle Bells’ also makes an appearance! We’re not entirely sure why this was considered such a staple of Labour politics, but it’d certainly be fun to find out…

'Jingle Bells' from 'Songs For Labour Festivals', 1927

'Swing low, sweet chariot' from 'Songs For Labour Festivals', 1927










(Christmas) Toys at the Victoria and Albert Museumvanda1

It wouldn’t be Christmas without presents! This collection of pamphlets is from the Victoria & Albert Museum ‘Small Colour Book’ series published in the 1970s; they describe items found in the museum’s collections.

The five books pictured here showcase toys, playing cards, puppets and dolls all held at the V&A Museum of Childhood (formerly Bethnal Green Museum). Each publication contains a brief history of the objects, which are from all over the world. It’s really interesting to see how toys have changed over time – but also how some items are relatively timeless, particularly the playing cards.

If you’d like to view any of the material discussed here, or want to ask us anything else, do get in touch. We hope you have a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!


[1] Mel Calman (01/01/1993) ‘David Low – Timeless Cartoonist’. British Journalism Review, Vol. 4 (4), pp. 31 – 33.


Originally written and published December 2015 by Jo Baines.

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Posted in What's in the Legacy Collection?

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