The first Kays catalogues don’t make much of Christmas. In Autumn/Winter 1923, I can find only one page of ‘pleasing presents’:

‘Pleasing Presents’, Autumn/Winter 1923.

It offers ‘solid silver salt cellars, in an extremely pretty shell pattern, with Spoons to match’, and ‘fish carvers, in a velvet lined case’.

The catalogue for Autumn/Winter 1935 seems more keen to make something of the commercio-festive opportunity. It has a front-page list of suggested ‘gifts for everyone’

'Gifts for Everyone', Autumn/Winter 1935.
‘Gifts for Everyone’, Autumn/Winter 1935.

including ‘cushions in good taste’

'Casement cushion', 'Cambric cushion' and more, Autumn/Winter 1935.
‘Casement cushion’, ‘Cambric cushion’ and more, Autumn/Winter 1935.

and 16 pages of ‘new toys of all kinds’.

'USEFUL & POPULAR TOYS' including 'The Young Footballer's Christmas Box', Autumn/Winter 1935.
Toys, including ‘The Young Footballer’s Christmas Box’, Autumn/Winter 1935.

Though it’s a bit dispiriting to see toys marketed as ‘useful’ as well as ‘popular’.

Autumn/Winter 1939 adds new excitement to the mix. ‘In your own interests’, Kays ‘respectfully urge you to do your Christmas Shopping Early.’ Of course, they ‘carry very large stocks’; nevertheless, ‘”last minute” customers at Christmas time do run the risk of finding their requirements temporarily “out of stock”‘.

The horror.

'Do your Christmas Shopping Early', Autumn/Winter 1939.
‘Do your Christmas Shopping Early’, Autumn/Winter 1939.

After this point, war and austerity seem to have put a bit of a damper on festivities, at least from the Kays perspective. In 1950, we’re back to tablewear: ‘A joy to give and a joy to own’.

How do you fancy a 40-piece chrome canteen of cutlery this Noël?

Cutlery, 'A JOY TO GIVE and A JOY TO OWN', Autumn/Winter 1950.
Cutlery, ‘a joy to give’, Autumn/Winter 1950.

By 1956, things have got more colourful. You can buy ‘super gifts and toys to delight all girls and boys’, including the ‘Mickey Mouse Emporium — ‘a delightful make-believe shop with plenty of real sweets for you to eat’ — in case you want to blur the distinction between fantasy and reality this Christmas.

‘Super gifts’, Autumn/Winter 1956.

And there are also Christmas cards and some adult gift ideas (scarves and hankies).

'IDEAS FOR GIFTS', Autumn/Winter 1956.
‘Ideas for gifts’, Autumn/Winter 1956.

But 1960 raises the stakes. That’s an ‘illuminated church and snow scene with musical unit’ you can see in the top left corner of the picture below, and a ‘silver Christmas tree with dinky lights’ underneath it.

Dinky lights and more, Autumn/Winter 1960.
Dinky lights and more, Autumn/Winter 1960.

And how about a Christmas hamper, complete with cake and tasty cheese triangles?

'Christmas Hampers', Autumn/Winter 1960.
‘Christmas Hampers’, Autumn/Winter 1960.

Or are you ready for 1969?

Trees. Baubles. Enormous stockings.

Autumn/Winter 1969.
Autumn/Winter 1969.

Lights. Crackers. Party poppers.

Autumn/Winter 1969.
Autumn/Winter 1969.


'christmas fayre', Autumn/Winter 1969.
‘christmas fayre’, Autumn/Winter 1969.

I think I’m beginning to feel nostalgic for 1923.

Happy holidays!