During the Great Depression, many families had to make do on very little, though not everyone suffered the same fate. Some businesses prospered during the 1930s, despite the hardships that many people faced. Some folks barely got by. Still, with some amounts of relief coming in from the efforts of government agencies like the Farm Security Administration and the Works Progress Administration the occasional family was able to celebrate the Christmas season with lights and trees. Have a look at what Christmas was like during the Great Depression.

Christmas 1938 for these unemployed men was a shack with a barrel fire for warmth and a bare pine tree outside for decoration. Via/ Library of Congress
“The cook on a fishing boat in Charleston, South Carolina, peeling potatoes for Christmas dinner.” 1938. Via/ Library of Congress
“Toys and dolls mended by workers: many of the dolls are made available to underprivileged children through Toy Lending Libraries, given to WPA Nursery Schools, and some are given out at Christmas time for children to keep.” 1935. Via/ U.S. National Archives
Santa on the stoplight pole on Main Street, 1936. Via/ U.S. National Archives
There’s no Christmas tree in this 1935 bed-sit, but is that a turkey wrapped in cloth on the table? Via/ Library of Congress
“Christmas dinner in home of Earl Pauley. Near Smithfield, Iowa. Dinner consisted of potatoes, cabbage and pie.” 1936. Via/ Library of Congress
“Children of H.H. Tripp wrapping presents for Christmas. Near Dickens, Iowa. Tripp operates his mother’s farm.” 1936. Via/ Library of Congress
Not a holiday decoration in sight, but we have to wonder if she’ll make a pumpkin pie from that ripe specimen on the table. 1935. Via/ Library of Congress
Notice the small Christmas tree on the pole and all the toys on sidewalk. 1935. Via/ Library of Congress
Living room, bedroom, and nursery all in one, but this lucky family still had a Christmas tree. 1940. Via/ Library of Congress