History Slam Episode 126: Christmas Toy Fads

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By Sean Graham

It’s that time of year again where people yell about Christmas being under attack while others scream about how the festive season is too long. Oh, and sometimes people buy each other gifts. The commercialization that surrounds Christmas is a big reason why retailers immediately replace Halloween costumes with Christmas decorations – if they even wait that long.

Selling to kids is a major part of this effort. If Hollywood is to be believed, Christmas is a time where youthful innocence and optimism solves all our problems and is rewarded with a smile, a wink, and a sleighful of presents. And to ensure their children have a magical Christmas that preserves that sense of wonder, some parents have taken to punching others in order to secure the perfect gift.

For as much as people may lament the current state of commercialization that dominates the year’s final two months, it is not a completely new phenomenon. Back in the 1930s, the Shirley Temple doll was all the rage as kids across North America wrote to Santa asking for this prized toy. And in the 90 years since, each year has had its ‘hot’ toy that has been marketed as ‘must have’ by both the manufacturer and the media.

In this episode of the History Slam, I am joined by Aaron Boyes and Megan Reilly-Boyes to talk about some of the biggest Christmas toy fads of the 20th century. We talk about some from our respective childhoods as well as some from the early part of the century as we break down what makes certain toys qualify as a ‘toy of the year,’ before we are joined by a special guest.

Be sure to check Activehistory.ca on December 21 as Aaron and I will be back with our Sixth (Annual?) Year in Review (100 Years Later) Bracket. In the interim you can check out our entries from past years. (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)

Sean Graham is an editor with Activehistory.ca and host/producer of the History Slam.

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