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101 Things We Miss About Christmas in the 1970s and 1980s

There’s nothing like being a kid at Christmas, and for folks of a certain age (“OLD”) — being a kid happened in the 1970s and 1980s.

If you’re anything like us (Sonny and Blair), and if you were also a kid in the 1970s and 1980s, you probably still enjoy Christmas, but …

Well, there are certain things you miss from the old days.

And that’s what these rumblings here are all about — 101 things we miss about Christmas in the 1970s and 1980s.

Let’s dig in …

tab soda bottle

  • Christmas gifts that did not require a TV or computer monitor
  • Drinking Tab because your grandma was on a diet
  • Not being allowed to drink coffee because kids don’t drink coffee
  • Grandpa passing out in the living room chair after lunch
  • Air painted blue with cigarette smoke
  • Fresh, cold air that helped heal your lungs when you staggered out of the cigarette smoke to help your dad load your haul into the car
  • A real belief in Santa Claus (because he’s real … duh)
  • Fat, hot, colorful Christmas bulbs that could Roman-candle your tree at any moment
  • A color wheel splashing against the aluminum tree in your old-lady neighbor’s living room
  • Gumdrops in your grandmother’s candy dish that looked suspiciously like the gumdrops she had in her candy dish the year before

the little crooked christmas tree

  • The crooked trunk on your Christmas tree
  • Dad cursing at the Christmas tree, partly because of its crooked trunk
  • Dad throwing the Christmas tree
  • Dad vowing to never put up another Christmas tree
  • Dad tethering the Christmas tree to the wall using wood screws, monofilament line, and vocabulary he picked up in the Navy
  • Bing Crosby playing through the house all December long
  • Watching every Christmas special you could get your eyes and ears on without once thinking about how insensitive they were
  • Writing a letter to Santa and actually mailing it
  • The disappointment of falling ten D batteries short of playing with all  your new toys on Christmas day
  • The satisfying heft of a plastic lizard loaded down with — yes — ten D batteries
  • The exhilaration of zapping your tongue across the terminals of a 9V battery

tongue on 9V battery

  • The look of anger mixed with disappointment mixed with resentment mixed with surprise mixed with fear that plastered your mom’s face when your dad handed you the gift he stashed away — the one your mom had no clue existed
  • Your own excited fear when you opened Dad’s surprise gift — usually a slingshot or BB gun or power tool
  • Calling your friends on your rotary phone on Christmas day to trade tall tales about your Santa haul
  • Playing with your cousins
  • Fighting with your cousins
  • Trading toys with your cousins when your grandmother missed the age-appropriate mark
  • Trying (not trying) to sleep while you waited in your bed for Santa on Christmas Eve
  • Getting up earlier than you ever had before to see if Santa had come — he had
  • Staying up later than you ever had before to see if Santa would come — he would
  • Staying up even later after you woke your parents up to open gifts in the middle of the night
  • Staying up all night to play with your new toys
  • Stumbling across that one cheapo, last-minute-throw-in toy that captivated your mind like none of the fancy crap your parents saved for weeks to buy
  • Standing up in the backseat of the car while Dad drove through town so the family could ogle Christmas lights and sing carols at the top of your lungs

jello christmas gingerbread men

  • Christmas parties at school
  • “A Christmas Carol” episode for every sitcom
  • Enough Christmas cards from friends and family to arch all the way around a doorway — or two
  • LP-shaped packages under the tree
  • Cassette-shaped packages under the tree
  • 8-track-shaped packages under the tree
  • No Black Friday
  • No Cyber Monday
  • No stores open on Christmas afternoon or night
  • Being the only car on the road if you ventured out on Christmas afternoon
  • Shopping at the mall
  • Shopping at the local department store
  • Shopping at the gas station on the way home Christmas Eve if you forgot to shop earlier (may still apply)
  • Shopping by mail if you started several months early
  • Eating Zingers while watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas
  • Eating vanilla ice cream with Hershey’s chocolate syrup while watching “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (Maybe I’m the only one with this particular snack choice, but this is the real Grinch.)
  • Drooling over the Sears Wish Book

1975 Sears Christmas Wish Book

  • Loved ones who are gone (I can’t be snarky all the time).
  • Convincing your grandmother that leg warmers aren’t really all that popular among teenage boys
  • Telling “What I Did Over Christmas Break” when you got back to school
  • Playing with your new toys at recess on the first day back to school
  • Breaking your new toys at recess on the first day back to school
  • Stiff, dark blue jeans on your first day back to school
  • Still not impressing the little redheaded girl on the your first day back to school, even with your new toys and your new stiff, dark blue jeans
  • A clean slate on a new semester at school
  • New Year’s resolutions that didn’t involve losing weight or making money
  • Watching for Rudolph’s nose through your bedroom window
  • Watching soap operas with your mom between Christmas and New Year’s Eve
  • Watching college football with Dad on New Year’s Day, even if neither one of you really knew much about the teams involved
  • Having more time with Mom and Dad than you might have in an average month or two
  • Sleepovers
  • Talking to your buddy on a walkie-talkie across your bedroom during sleepovers
  • Staying up late for days on end even though it wasn’t summer.
  • So much tinsel that you could barely see the tree.
  • None of this frous frous all-white-light crap

betty crocker mystery fruitcake

  • An actual single fruitcake that actually appeared on the goody table for multiple years in a row
  • Eggnog in a can
  • Drinking way too much eggnog in a can
  • Um … clearing room for more eggnog in a can
  • Dad looking bleary-eyed on the night you decorated the tree
  • Dad looking bleary-eyed on Christmas night
  • Mom frazzled beyond recognition by the midway point in your Christmas vacation
  • Cracking years-old nuts with those stupid, thin little metal nutcrackers


  • Reading books all night long — with permission, for a change
  • Not being able to sleep the night before school started up again
  • Getting “sick” the morning school started up again
  • Pajamas with footies
  • Plastic flowers at Grandmother’s house because she had a brown thumb
  • Glass Christmas tree balls that shattered if you looked at them
  • Fake-snow cotton/asbestos blend with sprinkles for a tree skirt
  • Homework over Christmas break (sarcasm font is broken)
  • Scary, broken-down department store Santas
  • Makeshift snowmen when there was no snow — tumbleweeds, mud, pumpkins, logs, etc.
  • Metal and wood sleds with no steering mechanism

metal trash can lid sled

  • Putting on your Sunday best for Christmas day
  • Sliding over the ice and snow in your rear-wheel drive family sedan (The Boat) to get to Grandma’s house on Christmas day
  • Model Christmas villages that took up an entire room in someone’s house
  • Thick wrapping paper that didn’t tear when you moved it and cost a nickel per roll
  • Department store Christmas displays
  • Toys that could maim, kill, dismember, or otherwise incapacitate you
  • Cheap artificial trees with fewer limbs than ornaments
  • Eating at the kids’ table
  • Gaudy candles and sconces that no one wanted from the school fundraiser but that your mom always bought one (or ten) of, anyway
  • Stalactite icicles that hung from gutterless roofs and tempted you to stick your tongue on them
  • Hand-me-down family recipes at Christmas dinner
  • Keeping our loot in a big pile as long as mom would let us because that preserved the magic
  • Magic

(Like 101 Things We Miss About Christmas in the 1970s and 1980s? Then you might like our article on 101 Things We Miss About Christmas in the 1970s and 1980s, click here.)

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