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Games On Christmas Day
|Celtic Games | On This Day|
Yuletide goals!The idea of abandoning the presents, turkey and in-laws on Christmas day for a trip to Parkhead is an alien, if tempting, concept for a generation of Celtic fans.
The closest supporters will get to seeing the Hoops in festive action these days on the big day is if someone challenges them to a game of FIFA on the Xbox.
The ghost of Christmases past however shows that this has not always been the case. Although never an integral part of the fixture calendar like the New Year game, matches on December 25th were an infrequent but hugely popular feature of the Scottish game for more than 70 years.
Between 1897 and 1971 Celtic played some fifteen times on Christmas day and on most occasions the opposition came bearing gifts.
Indeed the Hoops record for this festive fixture makes remarkable reading.
Out of those 15 games the Bhoys won 13, drew one and suffered a solitary loss. Celtic have netted an incredible 58 goals on Christmas day, an average of just short of 4 a match. In contrast the Hoops’ defence was uncharacteristically Scoorge-like, conceding a measly 13.
Some might be a bit surprised now by the fact that matches were played on Christmas day but in truth Christmas Day as a day of celebration is really quite a recent phenomenom in Scotland. Up to around the 1970s, Christmas day wasn't celebrated but rather Hogmany was the big day. People used to even work on Christmas day in Scotland (it not being a public holiday). Celebrating Christmas was seen as too Catholic for the more austere Presbyterian establishment. Commercialism is really what forced the change.
Celtic’s first Christmas day outing came in 1897 when they travelled the short distance to Clyde and thrashed their hosts 9-1. Another notable victory came on December 25th 1915 when Airdrieonians were hammered 6-0 at Parkhead.
Kilmarnock were the Christmas day visitors to Celtic Park in 1937 when the Bhoys showed little festive spirit by dishing out an 8-0 drubbing of the Ayrshire team. Under normal circumstances such a result would have had the entire Celtic support in raptures.
But this game marked the return to Parkhead of legendary Celt Jimmy McGrory who was making his debut as manager of Kilmarnock and who had received a thunderous reception from the home fans as he took his seat in the stand. As such there was much discomfort among the Celtic followers as McGrory’s side were humiliated.
Celtic had led the Rugby Park club 6-0 at half-time and with his side chasing the league title Willie Maley instructed his players to show no remorse to their opponents or McGrory. For some Celtic fans though this public humiliation of an idol they still worshipped was totally unacceptable.
While McGrory had no qualms at all about Celtic’s attitude some supporters were less understanding. Their feelings were summed up in a letter sent to McGrory from Dublin priest Father Coleman in the wake of the game. Father Coleman denounced what he viewed as Celtic’s ugly attitude to the match and he wrote the performance was “…a very ungallant, uncalled for, even dastardly act of the so-called Bhoys”.
There was no such sympathy on display on Christmas day 1965 when a Joe McBride hat-trick had helped put Celtic 7-0 up at half-time against Morton. With the Parkhead faithful licking their lips in anticipation of a record victory Jock Stein’s men, perhaps mindful of a busy holiday schedule, took their foot off the gas and the support had to eventually content themselves with an 8-1 triumph.
It was in hindsight a wise decision as 10 days later Celtic had plenty left in the tank as they destroyed Rangers 5-1.
In England the full Christmas day fixture programme were abandoned in the 1950's but north of the border occasional games would be played on December 25th right up until the mid 70s.
The last full programme of Christmas day fixtures in Scotland was however held in 1971 and it was on that date that Celtic bowed out of Christmas action. They did so with another victory, this time a 3-2 which over Hearts (pictured above) which was watched by a crowd of 34,000.
Nearly 4 decades on from that game all talk of seeing the Celts in action on the December 25 is now confined to the history books. However given Celtic’s amazing record in these fixtures perhaps we should be hoping for the return of a green and white Christmas!
Celtic's Full Christmas Day Record
1897 - Clyde 1 Celtic 9
1909 - Kilmarnock 0 Celtic 1
1915 - Celtic 6 Airdrieonians 0
1920 - St.Mirren 0 Celtic 2
1926 - Celtic 4 Kilmarnock 0
1933 - Queen's Park 2 Celtic 3
1934 - Celtic 4 Queen's Park 1
1937 - Celtic 8 Kilmarnock 0
1946 - Celtic 1 Queen's Park 0
1947 - Celtic 4 Hearts 2
1948 - Celtic 2 Aberdeen 0
1954 - Celtic 2 Clyde 2
1957 - Celtic 1 Queen of the South 2
1965 - Celtic 8 Morton 1
1971 - Celtic 3 Hearts 2
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, Dec 19 2012, 12:22 PM EST
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