Christmas day was a day for football

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IT is unthinkable today, but in a different era Christmas Day was a fixture on the football calendar.

It is normal practice now for clubs to attempt to re-arrange any fixtures which fall within a couple of days of 25 December, to allow players and supporters to spend time with their families instead.

But playing on Christmas Day was once seen as no particular hardship, up until the 1970s. The last time that the date was used for a regular fixture card was 1971, because Christmas fell on a Saturday. There were nine matches in each of Scotland’s two senior leagues, meaning every club was in action with a 3pm kick-off. Just how fans got to the game without public transport and at a time of relatively low car ownership is something of a mystery, but fans found a way. Almost 33,000 made their way to Parkhead to see Celtic edge out Hearts by three goals to two, while 25,000 at Easter Road, above, saw Colin Stein grab a late winner for Rangers against his old club Hibs.

Elsewhere, the crowds were of a size that those same clubs would kill for today: 7,000-plus at Falkirk and at St Johnstone, 6,000 at Partick Thistle, 4,000 at East Fife, and even 1,400 at Cowdenbeath v Albion Rovers. But when Christmas next fell on a Saturday five years later, games were switched to the 24th, 26th and 27th. Society was changing.