The History Channel is the right place to get the best recollections of “Christmas through the Decades.” If you lived through the 1980s, you probably will remember much of what they report on this episode and see how Christmas back in the 1980s has affected Christmas today.
This episode of the 1980s begins in with Chevy Chase, a guy who made Santa take a back seat when it came to his third movie as Clark Griswold in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” Just about every parent knew how Clark felt when those pesky lights did not work after all the hard work to decorate the outside of the house. The outside was not the only problem, as the lights back then that adorned the tree inside were enough to drive anyone crazy. When one light went out, they all went out causing one to check each and every one for the troublemaker.
In 1980, Atari licensed video arcade games for home use. In 1985, Nintendo took over as the console of choice and was the most popular “toy” of the year. When Nintendo created the Game Boy, the video games could be played anywhere and as people sit and watch their phones today; the Game Boy was what phones are today. Regardless of age, just about everyone had a Game Boy, and even astronauts played them in space. Did you have a Member’s Only jacket or a Walkman?
Television had a tough guy with a heart of gold called Mr. T, who came to the White House dressed as Santa, and let first lady Nancy Reagan sit on his lap to help with her “Just Say No” campaign to keep kids off drugs. In 1987, Run D.M.C. made a Christmas song called Christmas in Hollis. In 1984, eastern Africa was having a horrible famine, and millions were starving. Bob Geldof of Pink Floyd gathered many popular musicians called Band Aid to make a record called “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” to allow the proceeds to help the starving Ethiopians.
On television, Saturday mornings were something everyone looked forward to, starting with a visit to “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.” In 1988, the first and only Christmas special he ever made, but fans agree; it is a must-see. In 1988, Captain Crunch was made with red and green crunch berries called Christmas Crunch. The yearly marathon of “A Christmas Story,” is a classic. The Cleveland house where it was filmed is now a museum and every year a stay in the house is auctioned on eBay. In 2014, the winning bid was over $6,000.
Beginning in 1983, camcorders allowed parents to record every squeal and scream of Christmas morning. Although they were clumsy and difficult to work with, they replaced the 8mm cameras. Home movies became the rage of the 80s, and nearly everyone had one. One thing that happened because of the camcorder phenomenon was “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” Technology has come a long way since then, but Smartphone apps are available that made HD video look like vintage camcorder footage, complete with date & time stamp.
Another item that literally jumped off the shelves was the microwave oven. By the end of the 80s, there were eight out of ten homes with one of these. Denny’s restaurants close on Christmas, but although they are open 364 days a year, many managers could not find the keys to lock up and forced several restaurants to change the locks.
By the end of 1983, two million Cabbage Patch Dolls were adopted, as people stood on line for hours to get them. More popular items were the California Raisins, who had their own line of toys and even songs and Claymation specials. In 1983, Time Magazine replaced the person of the year with the Personal Computer as the Machine of the Year. Steve Jobs was expecting the title for himself, but the machine won out. In 1984, only eight percent of American households had a computer. Today, more than 84 percent have a computer of some sort.
One of the biggest things in the 80s coincided with the joy of the holidays on November 9, 1989, when the world witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall. For nearly three decades it stood as a reminder of Communism giving Germans the merriest Christmas ever. It signaled the end of the Cold War and the reunification of Germany.
The top toys of the 1980s were: 1980-Rubik’s Cube, 1981-Smurfs, 1982-Masters of the Universe, 1983-Glo Worm, 1984-Trivial Pursuit, 1985-Teddy Ruxpin, 1986-Transformers, 1987-Care Bears, 1988-Koosh Ball and 1989-The Real Ghostbusters all featured on this episode of “Christmas through the Decades.”