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What Christmas Looked Like the Year You Were Born

The style of the season has changed a lot through the decades.
IMAGE GETTY IMAGES/BBC
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There's just something about Christmas. Maybe it's the nostalgia it inspires, maybe it's the sounds of classic holiday tunes from decades long past, but something about the season just feels timeless. It's almost easy to forget that the look of Christmas has changed a lot over the years, from the traditions to the films and even the must-have toys, each Christmas has its own unique style and character. Want to know what Christmas looked like the year you were born? Read on an see what holiday classics (and a few not-so-classics) made their first appearance the same year you did.

1970


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Just days before the first Christmas of the 1970s, the King of Rock and Roll met up with the President of the United States in the Oval Office. If there's any combination that's more of its time than Elvis shaking hands with Richard Nixon, we can't think of it.

1971


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In October of 1971 Walt Disney World opened its doors to guests for the first time. Still in its infancy, Disney's first holiday season included a souvenir-filled Main Street USA shop called The Wonderland of Wax, which would later become the Holiday Corner, and a multi-story metallic Christmas tree.

1972


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In December 1972, First Lady Pat Nixon gave the press a tour of the White House's holiday decorations laden with blooms, evergreen, and seasonal fruits.

1973


Completed in April of that year, the Twin Towers spent their first Christmas presiding over the New York City skyline during the holiday season of 1973.

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1974


For the Fords first Christmas in the White House, First Lady Betty Ford welcomed guests to the Blue Room to view their towering Christmas tree.

1975


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In October 1975, Saturday Night Live made its debut, making that Christmas the first chance comedy fans had to spend the holidays with Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Jane Curtin, Chevy Chase, Garrett Morris, Laraine Newman, and Gilda Radner in the iconic sketch show.

1976


Marking America's 200th year as a nation, the Christmas of 1976 was a particularly patriotic one, with celebratory fireworks going off all across the country.

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1977


George Lucas's seminal film Star Wars wasn't just the hottest craze of 1977, its characters were also the must-have toys of the Christmas season—if you could get one. Uncertain how the sci-fi adventure would play with audiences, the film's official toy partner, Kenner, didn't invest in a full toy line in advance of the movie's debut in May, leaving them scrambling to create a line of figures to put under the tree in time for the holidays, with mixed success.

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1978


Born in mid-November of 1977, the Christmas of 1978 was the first one that little Peter Phillips, the son of Princess Anne and Queen Elizabeth's oldest grandson, got the chance to properly enjoy. And, this marked the first time the Queen got to show off her grandmotherly affection in her annual Christmas broadcast.

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1979


While the tree in Rockefeller Center has been an official tradition since 1933 (and an unofficial one since the Depression) the wire herald's angels by artist Valerie Clarebout were a later addition to the classic Christmas scene. In 1979, they celebrated their 10 year anniversary.

1980


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The Rubik's cube was invented by Hungarian architect Erno Rubik in 1974 as a practical example of three-dimensional geometry, but it wouldn't make it to the toy market until 1980 when it was licensed to the Ideal Toy Corp. It would go on to become one of the best-selling toys of all time and an icon of the decade.

1981


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Even First Ladies have holiday wrapping to do. This was the scene in 1981 as First Lady Nancy Reagan wrapped presents on the floor of the family living quarters on the second floor at the White House.

1982


1982 marked Prince William's first Christmas. Between his plastic key ring, the pink sofa, and Princess Diana's gorgeous red velvet dress, everything about this photo speaks to its time period.

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1983


This holiday essential film first hit theaters in 1983. A Christmas Story would go on to become one of the most beloved Christmas films of all time. From Ralphie's desperation for a Red Rider BB gun and his father's "major award" to the bunny costume and the Chinese Christmas feast, this is one film that stands the test of time.

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1984


Horror fans finally got a present under the tree when Gremlins was released in 1984. The dark comedy centered on Billy, who receives a strange furry creature with a very strict set of rules from his father as a Christmas present. But all is not as it seems with his new pet, Gizmo, and his town is in for a very unpleasant Christmas surprise when Billy makes the mistake of feeding his new friends after midnight.

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1985


While the Care Bears started as characters on greeting cards, in 1985 the lovable, colorful characters made the jump to television, skyrocketing their popularity and ensuring that every kid wanted to see a Care Bear plush toy under the Christmas tree.

1986


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In 1986, The Jim Henson Company produced a television special starring some new characters from the iconic puppeteer including Rugby the Tiger, a plush tiger who remembers being the prized Christmas toy the previous year. The film would later spin off the show Secret Life of Toys.

1987


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While Dolly Parton is certainly in the running for undisputed queen of the '80s, 1987's holiday season was particularly special for her as she got to put up her own Christmas-themed edition of Dolly, her short-lived television variety show.

1988


There's a long-standing debate as to whether Die Hard, the film that established Bruce Willis as an action hero, qualifies as a Christmas movie. We say, whatever it lacks in classic holiday tropes it more than makes up for in action, adventure, and some of the most quotable quips ever to grace the giving season.

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1989


The third in the "Vacation" series, this comedy, starring Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo may be more over the top than your average Christmas, but there's something about the quest to pull off the perfect holiday (and failing) that most of us can relate to.

1990


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Home Alone is a Christmas staple that has stood the test of time. Kevin's (Macaulay Culkin) kid-fantasy—doing anything he wants without his family to boss him around—turns into a nightmare when, after being accidentally left behind by his family, he has to face down a duo of robbers bent on breaking into his house for Christmas. Little do the thieves know that they're in for far more than they bargained for with this precocious and highly-prepared pre-teen.

1991


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Nintendo changed the face of video games when it launched the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) in the United States in 1991, becoming a huge success and a must-have on every kid's Christmas wish list.

1992


Christmas decorating takes on a whole new meaning when you're in the White House. For example, the trees get a lot bigger—as was the case with 1992's National Christmas Tree which First Lady Barbara Bush, her grandson, Walker Bush, and banking executive Joseph H. Riley adorned with a star topper from a cherry-picker.

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1993


Beanie Baby mania hit a fever pitch in 1993 when kids (and adults) all over the nation fell in love with these tiny, bead-filled plushies, each with their own name and signature story. While the insistence that the highly collectable toys would one day be worth millions never panned out, the tiny toys never became less adorable.

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1994


The Santa Clause, which hit theaters in November 1994, dominated the Christmas season that year. A Scrooge-like toy executive played by Tim Allen finds himself undergoing some drastic changes after he accidentally knocks Santa off of his roof on Christmas night, inadvertently becoming the new Father Christmas.

1995


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The White House doesn't do Christmas decorations by half measures and that includes includes gingerbread houses. This spectacular creation clearly delighted then-First Lady Hillary Clinton when it graced the residence in 1995.

1996


The must have toy of 1996, this laughing, kicking plush Muppet made kids ecstatic and grown-ups groan as they searched empty store shelves for the increasingly scarce toy. Reports of arrests, violence, and accidental tramplings became common-place in the phenomena known as "Elmo-mania" that overtook the holiday season.

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1997


While the Potter fandom wouldn't hit full steam in the United States for several more years, savvy readers were able to get their first look into life at Hogwarts for Christmas in 1997.

1998


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Furby, a robotic, interactive toy, made a name for itself both for its ability to respond, learn, and seemingly interact with kids like a real living creature as well as for its ability to sell out as soon as shelves were stocked in the lead up to Christmas season in 1998.

1999


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Even with fears about Y2K (the computer bug that was predicted to cause massive, worldwide shutdowns of major computer networks and systems when the new year arrived) in full swing, the National Christmas Tree remained a spot of cheer through the 1999 holiday season.

2000


In this live action adaptation of Dr. Seuss's beloved children's book How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Jim Carrey took on the role of the famously small-hearted green Grinch who decides to destroy Christmas for the holiday-loving Whos of Who-ville. Not everything goes according to plan, though, and it turns out to be his own holiday that's changed forever when it turns out the Grinch isn't quite as much of a mean one as he lets on.

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2001


The dawning of a new millennium wasn't enough to keep the Queen from her annual Christmas broadcast to the Commonwealth from Buckingham Palace.

2002


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Not exactly Santa's sleigh—huge groups of Santas filled ticket lines at New York City's Grand Central Station to celebrate the launch of Disney's The Santa Clause 2, which hit theaters in November of 2002.

2003


This modern Christmas classic took over theaters in 2003. Starring Will Ferrell as Buddy, a man who was adopted by one of Santa's elves as a baby and raised at the North Pole, as he sets out to redeem his biological father, a selfish book publisher who has landed himself on the naughty list.

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2004


In 2004, the Rockefeller Christmas tree unveiled a special new topper—a star made from 25,000 Swarovski crystals measuring 9.5 feet in diameter and 1.5 feet deep and weighing 550 pounds. The star remained in use until 2018, when it was replaced by a new model by Daniel Libeskind.

2005


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It wasn't a blue Christmas on Capitol Hill with this beautiful national tree overlooking our nation's leaders.

2006


You'd expect nothing less than charming holiday fun from the Queen of rom-coms, Nancy Meyers, and this 2006 film about a British wedding columnist and an American executive who trade homes for the holidays (and find love in unexpected places) is just that.

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2007


Kids and adults alike spent Christmas morning of 2007 jamming to their favorite songs with the video game Rock Band. The game was so popular it soon became a staple of parties for all ages—and the start of more than a few arguments about who got to wield the guitar.

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2008


No one does over-the-top quite like Katy Perry, and 2008 was no exception: the singer played at Q102's Jingle Ball dressed as a fully-decorated Christmas tree.

2009


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After an enormous amount of hype, director James Cameron's much-anticipated film Avatar hit theaters just days before Christmas in 2009. It went on to become the highest-grossing film ever, garnering nearly $3 billion in ticket sales and, naturally, spinning off the must-have merchandise of the season.

2010


Though it debuted in April of 2010, the iPad—the device that started the tablet revolution, and inspired no few snickering remarks about its name—remained one of the hottest wishlist items for Christmas in 2010.

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2011


For their first Christmas as a married couple, Prince William and Kate Middleton kept things traditional, attending services with the royal family at Sandringham.

2012


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Downton Abbey mania was in full swing by 2012, and watching the Crawleys head off to the Highlands for the season three Christmas special was enough to inspire anyone to add a Scottish touch to their Christmas celebration.

2013


"Let It Go", the mega-hit song from the Disney feature Frozen, could be heard playing alongside Christmas classics like "Jingle Bells" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" in stores (and everyone's heads) during the 2013 holiday season.

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2014


The theme of 2014's White House holiday decor was "A Children's Winter Wonderland," and the Obama family certainly held to it, decorating the White House Christmas Tree with snowflakes and ornaments that looked like toys. The giant sculpture of a wrapped present in the First Lady's garden was a nice touch.

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2015


Hoverboards became the short-lived Christmas sensation of 2015. The motorized toys, which are driven by shifting weight on a central platform, started the season as the holiday's hit toy, becoming virtually impossible to get as Christmas Day approached; by December 26th, the news was filled with stories of people falling off of hoverboards and injuring themselves—and concerns about some of the boards catching fire.

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2016


Consumer-grade drones were all the rage in 2016. Kids played with the little flying robots, artistic types used them for impressive aerial photography, and irritated neighbors complained about the errant flyers falling into their yards.

2017


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After months of speculation, Prince Harry and his then-girlfriend Meghan Markle announced that they were engaged in November of 2017. That Christmas, Meghan spent her first holiday with the royal family, joining then for Christmas Day services at Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Sandringham.

2018


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Quintessential British hotel Claridge's unveiled a unique Christmas tree in their lobby for the 2018 season. Diane von Furstenberg decorated the "Tree of Love" with six different animals, each with an ancient astrological meaning, as well as 8,000 silver leaves, hand-blown glass balls, and 150 glass hearts.

This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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