It's 59 years since Grimsby played their very last Christmas day game, when Town hosted Sheffield United to a cigar-smoke flavoured match. Sadly the last Christmas Day match didn't end in celebrations despite a Johnny Scott goal, with the Yorkshire side pooping our party by the odd goal in three. Two days later, they repeated the medicine and the scoreline at their place when Ron Rafferty netted Town's goal. Maybe the FA Cup 3rd Round match was preying on their minds as Town would be playing (and defeating) the Mighty Manchester City. Almost 14,000 had turned up at Blundell Park for that final Christmas Day game, only beaten in the second half of the season by the traditional Blundell Park Good Friday gate, though the two home games at the start of the season against Lincoln and Middlesbrough had seen gates exceeding 21,000!
The previous Xmas had seen Town beat Liverpool at Blundell Park with goals from Jeff Whitefoot, Jimmy Fell and Johnny Scott, though they lost 3-2 at Anfield 24 hours later (who said you can't play two games in 24 hours, eh!!)
Leicester City had provided the Blundell Park Christmas Day feast in 1956 with a 2-2 draw before the great late-1950s team had been assembled.
The Christmas Day game hadn't started until 1897, when Town took on local rivals Lincoln City (away) with a draw being the result.
For the final Christmas day game in the nineteenth century Town lost at Blundell Park by 3-0 to Chesterfield and the following Day entertained Newton Heath (now called Manchester United) and were hammered 7-0 .......... remember that result for a few minutes!
The first Christmas Day game of the 20th century saw a Thomas Lakey goal sufficient to see local rivals Lincoln City be despatched back to Sincil Bank, leaving both points in Cleethorpes, in a season destined to find the Mariners promoted to the top flight for the first time.
The years before the great war saw regular Christmas Day games, when December 25th didn't fall on a Sunday, that is, and there appears to have been rather too many matches where the Town players were suffering from a bit too much pudding and subsequently suffering ignominious defeats.
Town's first really festive Christmas Day result came in 1922 in the Third Division North when Accrington were hammered 7-1. It was a nice present for the Town fans, being the only game the team DIDN'T lose in a run of ten!
In 1923, the Football League finally decided that teams should play one another twice in 24 hours at Christmas as a matter of course. Town's first double header in this category was against Crewe (win and draw), followed in 1924 by a win and loss versus Walsall. A couple of wins in 24 hours versus Bradford PA saw crowds counted accurately for the first season rather than vague estimates, so we know that the BP game v Bradford was watched by 13,230, and 5,000 more saw the game at the Yorkshire club's ground.
Some fairly forgettable results saw out the 1920s, though the 1930s started better with a BP crowd of 18,500 watching Town draw versus Liverpool and then 38,000 saw the clubs return a second draw on Boxing Day.
Before the brightest day, a little rain must fall, so 1932 saw Town beaten on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day, and the 27th December. Thank goodness Christmas Day was a no-game day!
Now, remember that defeat to Newton Heath all those years ago? Well, 1933 saw Town achieve their best Christmas return ever, and it was against none other than Newton Heath - now of course under their modern name of Manchester United, in a season when Town stormed to the Second Division Championship, and United escaped relegation to 3 North by the skin of their teeth! The first game was on the Christmas Day at Old Trafford in front of almost 30,000 fans. Town scored 3 .... Pat Glover scored 3 .... with United replying with a solitary goal. Boxing Day saw the two teams back at Blundell Park for the second bout, and it was a knockout to the Mariners! Almost 16,000 saw Town blast 7 past United (though conceding 3), with Glover bagging another brace, and each one of the five forwards getting at least a goal, including the ace Jackie Bestall! There's only one team in the land that can claim the record attendance at Old Trafford AND to have knocked 10 goals past the Reds inside 24 hours!
Of course, Town can't show favouritism in the Cottonopolis rivalry, so 5 past Man City on 25th December 1936, evened things up!
Not every Christmas Day game was a local derby by any means. The first two seasons after WWII saw Town play London opposition with a draw and a win against Charlton and Chelsea in successive seasons.
In 1951, Town beat Scunthorpe twice in 2 days over Christmas in an era where football crowds across the country were reaching record numbers. Almost 20,000 packed in to Blundell Park for the Christmas Day match, whilst more than 15,000 paid for the return game at the Old Show Ground on Boxing Day.
But the days of the Christmas Day game were numbered, and before the swinging sixties dawned, the era of celebrating Noel with a game of football had gone. But whilst you are tucking into the turkey, just remember that couple of results ..... Man United 1-3 Town, and Town 7 - 3 Man United .... and those candles will light themselves!