Treasured memories of childhood Christmas traditions in Sunderland - Santa at Joplings and more

A much-anticipated trip to your favourite toy department, the all-important visit to see Santa Claus in his workshop ahead of the big day and a festive food treat for the way home.

Families across the world have their own Christmas traditions – and here in Sunderland, it’s no different. With the festive mood ramping up as December 25 grows closer, we turned to the members of our nostalgia Facebook community – Wearside Echoes – to share their fondest memories of Yuletides from younger days and the first signs of Christmas they remember seeing in the city.

And here to help was Sunderland-born TikTok-er Kathrine Taylor, who posts on the social media platform under the name North East Nostalgic. For her, Christmas on Wearside meant a trip to see Santa in Joplings or Wilko, watching the twinkling lights get switched on in the city centre and celebrating the fun of the season at the Empire theatre’s panto!

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Hundreds of you joined Kathrine in sharing some cracking memories, so grab a cuppa and take a trip to Christmases of the past. See how many of these things you remember … and tune into Kathrine's on the video with this story.

A spot of Christmas shopping

Kay Thompson: “Joplings, sitting on the train. I thought it actually moved. Also Liverpool House. All these magical memories.”

Chris Metcalfe: “Getting Joplings money.”

Diamond Fisheries: “Liverpool House when I was little always had a good Christmas grotto and the Santa outside The Continental.”

For many, the Christmas lights being switched on is the first sign of Christmas in Sunderland. Is it one of yours?

Gillian Mariner: “Joplings and Binns window.”

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Teresa Greenhalgh: “Decorations in Binns and the Salvation Army Band playing Christmas carols in store. Sheer magical times.”

Angela Carney: “Binns and Woolworths, definitely my favourite department store when I was younger.”

Steve Smith:Josephs window toy displays.”

Browsing the Binns toy department in 1980 - was a trip here one of your favourite Christmas pastimes as a child?
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Meeting Santa Claus

Sharon Armstrong: “Going to see Santa in the big shops (Binns and Joplings) going in Santa's grotto for a ride. The walls moved, in one door out the next. Got to pick your prezzie after seeing Santa, it was great and magical.”

Margaret Ame: “Being so excited to see Santa at Blacketts. It seemed magical back then.”

Michelle Lundy: “Seeing Santa at Joplings and going on the sleigh thinking you were going to the North Pole.”

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Who's for a slice of Christmas pud? Love it or hate it, the spectacle of it at the dinner table on December 25 is one to enjoy. Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

Anne Chilvers: “Shopping with my Mum and Nana in Joplings and Binns and going to see Santa at Liverpool House. The Christmas lights all along Fawcett Street, the roast chestnut man beside the station, and it was usually snowing. Absolutely magical!”

Enjoying the great outdoors

Robert Smith: “Carol singers under the street lamp in Cotswold Road, Christmas Eve and snow falling.”

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Tracey Wheeler: “The smell of chestnuts being roasted in Mowbray Park when the lights decorated the whole place, back in the ‘70s.”

Hayley Greenhow: “Lights and fireworks in Mowbray Park.”

Kate Stephenson: “The house up the top of Twickenham Road would have Christmas lights on outside. It was always lit up each Christmas.”

Joplings in John Street was a hit with Christmas shoppers in its heyday. Here it is in 1975. Was it a favourite with you?
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Get involved on TikTok

To see more of Kathrine’s memories online, visit her TikTok account North East Nostalgic online here. Kathrine’s quirky posts take followers for a trip down memory lane across Sunderland and the wider North East. From a tour of Glenda Young book locations to some of Sunderland’s most-haunted spots and remembering a ‘90s Christmas, there will be something amongst her videos to unlock your own precious memories.

To enjoy more memories and pictures from Sunderland’s past, join the discussion on our Wearside Echoes Facebook page here. You can also sign up to our FREE monthly retro newsletter, also called Wearside Echoes, on our website here.