The first Kays catalogues don’t make much of Christmas. In Autumn/Winter 1923, I can find only one page of ‘pleasing presents’:
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’
including ‘cushions in good taste’
and 16 pages of ‘new toys of all kinds’.
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”‘.
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?
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.
And there are also Christmas cards and some adult gift ideas (scarves and hankies).
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.
And how about a Christmas hamper, complete with cake and tasty cheese triangles?
Or are you ready for 1969?
Trees. Baubles. Enormous stockings.
Lights. Crackers. Party poppers.
I think I’m beginning to feel nostalgic for 1923.