Christmas 2021 is fast approaching. As we all begin to make our plans for the holiday season this year, decorate our houses and do any last minute Christmas shopping, it is appropriate to take a look back and look at some of the Christmas customs of the past.


We may all secretly be hoping for a dusting of snow this Christmas, and in that respect we will be no different to our parents and grandparents back in the 1950s and 1960s. If we think back to films of the time – like Holiday Inn which featured the ubiquitous Bing Crosby song “White Christmas” and the famous snowy scenes in The Wizard of Oz and Citizen Kane, we are right to be shocked to hear that the wintry scenes were created using pure chrysotile asbestos !

Families could even buy packs of chrysotile to create festive snowy scenes in their own homes, something which seems totally unbelievable to us now. Woven asbestos was also used as a fireproof covering for wiring, so it is possible that families who have got Christmas decorations that have been handed down for generations may still be putting themselves at risk of exposure to asbestos even today.

The legacy of asbestos use in movies and the film industry continues to impact former actors and other workers in those industries several decades later. Actors including Steven McQueen, Ed Lauter and Merlin Olsen all went on to develop mesothelioma decades after they were exposed to asbestos.

The dangers of asbestos really should not be under-estimated, and anyone who is contemplating using old vintage Christmas tree decorations and lights should consider the possibility that they may have been contaminated from fake snow or may contain asbestos parts. The safest course of action would be, if in doubt, to get a professional test carried out.

The famous Hollywood films like Holiday Inn and The Wizard of Oz provided some escapism from the troubles of the world when they were first aired in 1942 and 1939. Maybe we need a similar nostalgic experience today, to take our minds off what has been another tough year.  I do hope that everyone at HASAG, all the families impacted by asbestos related illnesses and the healthcare workers who treat them and the charities who provide such amazing support manage some very well deserved rest and recuperation over the 2021 festive season.

Warmest Christmas greetings to all and wishing everyone all the very best for 2022.

this piece was written by Royds Withy King