1983 was a rather memorable year, one that saw the introduction of Swatches, the Chicken McNugget and Hooters. But for parents, it might be best remembered as the year when getting your child what they wanted most for Christmas meant enduring the inconvenience of long lines and a mob-like atmosphere. Yes, friends – this was the year of the Cabbage Patch Kid frenzy, perhaps one the craziest holiday seasons on record.
Cabbage Patch Kids started out as the creation of humble doll maker, Xavier Roberts, an art student trying to find a way to bring in some money to cover his tuition costs. He designed his “Little People” dolls, utilizing a combination of German fabric sculpturing and traditional quilting. After moderate success selling his wares at arts and crafts shows, he opened Babyland General, a factory to mass-produce his toys.
But it would be an appearance on the popular reality show, Real People, in 1980 that would cause the dolls popularity to truly gain momentum. Even with the help of veteran toy maker, Coleco, who partnered with Roberts in 1982 to boost production, it quickly became clear that demands were far outweighing the supply. These were must have items for children and collectors alike. What made the dolls different from the competition, besides their design, was that they came with a birth certificate, which gave their name (each doll unique) and birth date, as well as adoption papers. Once parents filled out the adoption papers and mailed them back to the company, the doll would receive a card in the mail celebrating its first birthday. The company also provided washing instructions and a reminder that, like all of us, a Cabbage Patch Kid benefits greatly from a daily hug.
Cabbage Patch Kids are still popular despite being discontinued in 1989 and they even inspired a 1996 film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger called Jingle All the Way, which chronicled the trials and tribulations of a parent in search of the unobtainable toy. Their popularity even survived an unfortunate series of incidents in 1995, due to the insatiable appetite of their spin-off brethren, the Snacktime Kid. It seems that when these dolls were given the ability to chew, thanks to their mechanical jaws, nobody anticipated that they might acquire a taste for little Suzie’s locks of golden hair. As these incidents became more common, the Snacktime Kid was removed from store shelves.
Looking back, it all seems a tad unbelievable that people were willing to camp out for hours on end just to hopefully get their hands around one these dolls. But given the choice between long lines and potential riots or the prospect of seeing the sad face of a little moppet that has been neglected by Santa, the decision was a simple one – to the tune of over three-million of these ragamuffins being sold in the first couple of years alone. There are few things parents won’t do to bring a smile to faces of their children and in the early 80s, those smiles often came via a Cabbage Patch Kid.
Were you the lucky recipient of a Cabbage Patch Kid? Was it everything you hoped it would be? Better yet, do you still have it in your possession? Share those Cabbage Patch memories with all of us at Retroland, as we remember one of the biggest toy fads of all time, and one crazy Christmas.