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Christmas Crackers

It's time to join the ghosts of Christmases past as we celebrate a century of festive film.

Our selection of comic, musical and animated treats should get you in the spirit, and for balance there's newsreels both cheerful and poignant, while some evocative home movies shine a light on the family revels of yesteryear. Meanwhile, some early promotional films offer a reminder that Christmas was serious business long before advertisers deployed CGI penguins or WWI epics to tug on viewers' heart strings. All the yuletide traditions are here: trees, turkeys and toys (including some distant ancestors of the dreaded Furby). You'll also find some seasonal curios, not least a sci-fi re-imagining of Charles Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol - alongside a more conventional version from 1914. These crackers are full of surprises!

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Toys Will Be Toys
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Toys Will Be Toys

Animation & Artists Moving Image19885 mins Location: South Shields

Barbie dolls in pink battle khaki killing machines in a Christmas animation that cocks a snook at the “Disney Doctrine”.

A Bronte Christmas
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A Bronte Christmas

Documentary198014 mins Location: Haworth

Richard Whiteley joins children on the Worth Valley Railway Santa’s Special, while the Haworth Town Band sing On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at.

Christmas in Belfast
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Christmas in Belfast

Government sponsored film19772 mins Location: Belfast

Christmas in Belfast at the height of 'The Troubles'. Not the most wonderful time of year.

Christmas Play
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Christmas Play

195918 mins

Taking the lid off the creative process - of a group of theatrically-minded 11-year-olds as they stage the nativity.

A Christmas Carol
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A Christmas Carol

Fantasy191423 minsSilent

A well-acted early version of Charles Dickens' much loved Christmas story, featuring some impressive ghost sequences.

Wartime Cinema Christmas Greeting
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Wartime Cinema Christmas Greeting

Announcement19401 mins

A thoughtful Christmas message in hope of peace from early in WWII - the absence of loved ones hit hardest at holiday times.

Family Christmas
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Family Christmas

Amateur film19524 minsSilent Location: Norwich

Christmas Day, Norwich 1952 and following the traditional lunch for 4 generations of the Youngs family and offspring - the party is out in the back garden for some fun and fresh air.

Dodo in Christmas Adventure
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Dodo in Christmas Adventure

Animation & Artists Moving Image19655 mins

Meet the animated sci-fi fixer from a strange atomic race who knows the value of Christmas.

Christmas Around the World
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Christmas Around the World

Animation & Artists Moving Image19785 mins Location: South Shields

Chomping alligators, a boomerang throwing kangaroo, a turkey in Turkey, and an angry lion, all mollified by a world touring, bumbling Santa.

The Twelve Days of Christmas
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The Twelve Days of Christmas

Animation & Artists Moving Image19764 mins Location: South Shields

A classic Christmas carol brought joyously to life in this engaging and colourful Sheila Graber animation, with help from her school class.

Parcels for the Front
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Parcels for the Front

Non-Fiction19151 minsSilent

Tommy's Christmas parcels are despatched to the Front in a fleet of trucks.

Christmas Is Coming
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Christmas Is Coming

Animation & Artists Moving Image19511 minsSilent

Santa's on strike! This charming animation for the GPO advises early posting to keep Father Christmas onside.

'If Winter Comes' - It Has!
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'If Winter Comes' - It Has!

Non-Fiction19231 minsSilent Location: Buxton

Dashing through the snow; on a six-horse open plough... The streets are ready for sledging in 1920s Buxton.

Premium Bonds: Xmas 1959
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Premium Bonds: Xmas 1959

1959 mins

The Happy (Christmas) way to save! Santa plugs Premium Bonds in a 'prize-winning' 1950s TV ad.

'Joys in Toys for Girls and Boys'
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'Joys in Toys for Girls and Boys'

Non-Fiction19271 minsSilent

Treat your kiddies to the latest mechanical wonders, promoted in this festive newsreel item

Boxing Day
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Boxing Day

Cookery show197327 mins

Dorothy Sleightholme, Yorkshire's answer to Fanny Cradock, makes a meal of turkey leftovers in this seasonal offering from the Farmhouse Kitchen.

Christmas Greeting
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Christmas Greeting

Announcement19381 mins

A glittering assortment of screen stars brings some extra Yuletide sparkle to a charming festive greeting to 1930s cinemagoers.

Horses' New Year's Dinners
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Horses' New Year's Dinners

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent Location: Cricklewood

Retired nags enjoy a well-earned New Year's feed at the Cricklewood Home of Rest for Horses.

Surrey Union Boxing Day Hunt
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Surrey Union Boxing Day Hunt

Amateur film19775 minsSilent Location: Guildford

The streets of Guildford are filled with riders and hounds in this traditional and colourful Boxing Day spectacle.

Turkeys for Xmas
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Turkeys for Xmas

Non-Fiction19151 minsSilent Location: Norfolk

Feathered friends prepare to meet their fate in this seasonal newsreel outing to a Norfolk turkey farm.

Our Christmas 1961
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Our Christmas 1961

Amateur film19614 minsSilent Location: Patcham

It’s Christmas morning at the Linehan household. Santa's been, the kids are happy and Dad's playing his guitar under the tree.

Vietnamese Children Refugees
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Vietnamese Children Refugees

Non-Fiction19785 mins Location: Birmingham

6,000 miles from home, after a perilous voyage to escape terror and oppression, five child refugees from Vietnam experience the magic of a British Christmas.

Old Drury Custom Dating from 1796
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Old Drury Custom Dating from 1796

Non-Fiction19282 minsSilent Location: Covent Garden

Theatrical shenanigans in London's West End as thespians celebrate a Twelfth Night tradition.

Our Advice This Festive Season!
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Our Advice This Festive Season!

Non-Fiction1925 minsSilent

A quirky festive message courtesy of a pair of courting camels.

Family Christmas Home Movie
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Family Christmas Home Movie

Amateur film19488 minsSilent

It's an austerity Christmas from 1948 with a scary looking Santa Claus dishing out the presents and the kisses.

A Message from Mars
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A Message from Mars

Science Fiction191360 minsSilent

Britain's first full-length science fiction feature has been restored by the BFI National Archive and given a new score by composer Matthew Herbert, commissioned by the BFI and the BBC.

Manufacture of Stilton Cheese
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Manufacture of Stilton Cheese

Non-Fiction19202 minsSilent

Ever wondered how your Christmas Stilton is made? All is revealed in this delectable short produced by pioneer Charles Urban.

Childrens' Christmas Parties
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Childrens' Christmas Parties

Home movie19528 minsSilent Location: Norwich

The ring on the string keeps moving! Party games, a finger buffet and a ventriloquist dummy entertain the children of the Lane and Scrutton families at Christmastime.

A 'White' Christmas
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A 'White' Christmas

Non-Fiction19272 minsSilent Location: Regent's Park

Heavy snowfall makes Christmas dreams come true for residents across Britain.

A Little Fragrance Clings to the Hand that Gives You Roses
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A Little Fragrance Clings to the Hand that Gives You Roses

Amateur film19847 mins

Agnes Mendelstien is heading for a nervous breakdown as more and more unwanted Christmas presents from her over-generous suitor, start piling up.

Pole: City
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Pole: City

Home movie19585 minsSilent Location: Nottingham

The tree is up in Old Market Square, the pantomime is on; it's time to celebrate Christmas in Nottingham.

Christmas Dinner Goes to Market
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Christmas Dinner Goes to Market

Non-Fiction19301 mins Location: Attleborough

Christmas is coming and the Norfolk turkey's getting fat...

Xmas 1937
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Xmas 1937

Amateur film19374 minsSilent

Join at the Yeatman family's Yuletide celebrations with this delightful home movie of their 1937 Christmas dinner.

As Christmas Draws Near
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As Christmas Draws Near

Non-Fiction19281 minsSilent

An eccentric parade of mechanical toys to tantalise 1920s kids - and to remind us that Christmas consumerism is nothing new.

Christmas Story
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Christmas Story

19504 minsSilent Location: Leeds

A great example of an integrated family of immigrants from different religious backgrounds showing just how Christmas can be enjoyed the traditional way in post-war Britain.

Lonely Lightship's Christmas
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Lonely Lightship's Christmas

Non-Fiction19221 mins Location: Lynn Channel

A crew of not-so-lonely lightshipmen enjoy a festive knees-up - 40 miles out at sea - in this heart-warming newsreel.

Tony Buys a Bike
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Tony Buys a Bike

Promotional194217 minsSilent Location: Harringay

A lucky schoolboy gets a brand new bike for Christmas in this charming wartime promotional film.

The Mistletoe Bough
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The Mistletoe Bough

Fantasy19049 minsSilent

Discover a haunted gem, the earliest film of the Christmas ghost story The Mistletoe Bough. Guaranteed to spook a whole new generation over a hundred years after its creation. With new music by Pete Wiggs of Saint Etienne, commissioned by the BFI.

Family Christmas in East Grinstead and Woodingdean
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Family Christmas in East Grinstead and Woodingdean

Amateur film196712 minsSilent

There isn't a battery in sight in this Christmas film from 1967 but we do see the pudding being made and sense the thrill of presents being opened.

Their Happy New Year
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Their Happy New Year

Non-Fiction19291 mins

Portsmouth sailors get some seasonal shore leave

Family Christmas with the Dawson Family
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Family Christmas with the Dawson Family

Home movie19635 minsSilent Location: Norwich

The Dawson family from Norwich conjure up a great Christmas with games and trickery to entertain the children in this home movie.

New Year Resolutions
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New Year Resolutions

Non-Fiction19702 mins Location: Birmingham

Drinking, smoking, gambling: what are you giving up? It's new year's eve 1970 and the people of Birmingham tell us about their resolutions.

Christmas Greetings
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Christmas Greetings

Amateur film19838 minsSilent Location: Middlesbrough

A Cleveland family ring in the festive season with Bucks Fizz. But this family Christmas is not what it seems.

Christmas Shopping, Godalming 1922
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Christmas Shopping, Godalming 1922

Amateur film19223 minsSilent Location: Godalming

The timber-framed establishments of old Godalming lure shoppers with their enticing displays of yuletide fare and mistletoe.

The Candlemaker
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The Candlemaker

Animation & Artists Moving Image195713 mins

An animated tale with a Lutheran message that's equal parts Christmas spirit and good old-fashioned guilt

TV mascot Gus Honeybun in Weymouth Christmas Parade
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TV mascot Gus Honeybun in Weymouth Christmas Parade

News19801 minsSilent Location: Weymouth

The Royal Marines Band hold a Christmas Parade with Gus Honeybun in Weymouth

Our Christmas 1941 - Spent at Daisy's and Dolly's
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Our Christmas 1941 - Spent at Daisy's and Dolly's

Amateur film19417 minsSilent

It's the season to eat, drink and be merry in the Tigg household, with feasting and jollity captured in this vivid amateur film.

Christmas 1963
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Christmas 1963

Amateur film19634 minsSilent

A table overladen with food, a wolf-pack of hungry visitors, trendy teenagers in the kitchen and lots of eating. It's Christmas 1963-style.

Magician's Wife Makes the Christmas Cake
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Magician's Wife Makes the Christmas Cake

Amateur film19498 minsSilent

There's magical mayhem in the kitchen when the magician's wife makes use of a most unusual cooking utensil - her husband's magic wand.

Kench Family Films: 1966, Redbridge and West End (1966)
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Kench Family Films: 1966, Redbridge and West End (1966)

Home movie196617 minsSilent Location: Ilford

Ilford parades, Post Office Tower views as well as weddings, birthdays and Christmas all feature on this fantastic home movie from Redbridge in 1966.

The Streets of Hong Kong - Wintertime 1936
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The Streets of Hong Kong - Wintertime 1936

Amateur film193817 minsSilent Location: Hong Kong

Christmas decorations jostle for attention among thousands of street signs in this amateur exploration of Hong Kong Island’s busy streets.

Christmas 1952 Santa Claus Comes to Craig Cefn Parc
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Christmas 1952 Santa Claus Comes to Craig Cefn Parc

Amateur film19524 minsSilent Location: Craig-cefn-parc

Santa Claus – wearing the traditional robes and a black mask – arrives in the village of Craig Cefn Parc, near Clydach, Swansea, with a horse-drawn sleigh full of presents.

Gilchrist Brothers' & Childrens' Christmas Parties
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Gilchrist Brothers' & Childrens' Christmas Parties

Amateur film19465 minsSilent Location: Bradford

With the war now over, these children make the most of a civilized Christmas Party with home-made hats, dancing and tucking into the traditional fare of sandwiches and cakes.

Christmas Eve
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Christmas Eve

Drama191517 minsSilent

A heart-tugging moral melodrama with echoes of Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

Boulter Family Films: Family and Friends Christmas Party, Becontree (1965)
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Boulter Family Films: Family and Friends Christmas Party, Becontree (1965)

Amateur film19652 minsSilent Location: Becontree

Two-minutes glimpse of an East London Christmas part, with a small amount of present-opening and a whole lot of hat-wearing and raucous dancing.

Closure of Snibston Colliery
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Closure of Snibston Colliery

Current affairs19835 mins Location: Snibston

A bleak Christmas for the men of Snibston Colliery as mining in Coalville comes to an end in the last days of 1983.

The Christmas Visitor
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The Christmas Visitor

Animation & Artists Moving Image19587 mins

The Night Before Christmas meets Toy Story in this charming British cartoon from 1958.

Party Strife
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Party Strife

Home movie195110 minsSilent Location: Norwich

Party hats and finger food, funny faces, and a snowball fight; the Lane-Scrutton families enjoy a Christmas get-together and a giggle in this 1951 home movie.

'Hello! Wintertime'
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'Hello! Wintertime'

Non-Fiction19291 minsSilent Location: Glasgow

Pedestrians hustle briskly through a snowy George Square in Glasgow, while others stop to gawk at a stricken carthorse.

The Iles - in the garden, at the seaside, at Christmas
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The Iles - in the garden, at the seaside, at Christmas

Amateur film194010 minsSilent Location: Heath

Life with the Iles family: Summer is for cycling, the seaside, tending to tortoises and meeting delightful collie pups. Christmas is for crackers and the gift of a perfect doll.

Christmas Church Parade
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Christmas Church Parade

Non-Fiction19141 minsSilent

Recruits of Lord Kitchener's 'New Army' parade on Christmas morning.

The Traditions of a Surgeon at Christmas
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The Traditions of a Surgeon at Christmas

Amateur film196217 minsSilent Location: Cambridge

The filmic memoirs in Cambridgeshire of heart surgeon Christopher Parish and his family, beginning with Christmas traditions, and including a royal visit. The year is 1962.

Two Columbines
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Two Columbines

Drama191433 mins

Moving theatre-set Christmas tale of a former dancer and her child

Your Stamp Duty
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Your Stamp Duty

Public Information Filler19471 mins

A rich spinster aunt, the last post before Christmas, and an expectant nephew with a fondness for port spell trouble in this short comic cinema ad.

Christmas Celebrations and the Cruel Cat
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Christmas Celebrations and the Cruel Cat

Amateur film19694 minsSilent

It's Christmas Day and while the family enjoys their annual feast the cat is having a Christmas 'banquet' of its own.

Christmas at the Front
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Christmas at the Front

Non-Fiction19141 minsSilent

Poignant scenes of Allied troops enjoying their Yuletide rations at the first Christmas of WWI.

Derby floods
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Derby floods

Non-Fiction19655 mins Location: Derby

The community spirit shines through as Mansfield Street in Derby is hit by flooding just before Christmas 1965.

Keep Them Safe, Keep Them Happy
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Keep Them Safe, Keep Them Happy

Charity appeal19392 minsSilent Location: Norwich

Sweet and touching wartime cinema appeal for 300,000 London children spending Christmas far from home.

Drink Drive Office Party Cartoon
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Drink Drive Office Party Cartoon

Advert19641 mins

Quirky photo-montage film warning of the perils of drink driving.

Lloyd George at Home: Xmas 1938 & Jan 1939
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Lloyd George at Home: Xmas 1938 & Jan 1939

Amateur film19389 minsSilent Location: Churt

Santa Claus arriving at a house full of children on Xmas Day has not forgotten their elders - even Lloyd George gets a present! And the new year brings Chow Chow pups and snow.

Christmas at East Grinstead in 1972
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Christmas at East Grinstead in 1972

Amateur film197211 minsSilent Location: East Grinstead

Christmas features twice, in this 1970s compilation. After each Christmas dinner the family opens its presents. Dad gets underpants in 1972 and six years later - a compost bin.

What's The Hurry?
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What's The Hurry?

Promotional19343 minsSilent Location: Walton-on-Thames

"Wise people are hastening to Walton-On-Thames". This inventive ad promotes the Surrey town as the ultimate Christmas shopping destination.

Christmas Story
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Christmas Story

Amateur film194510 minsSilent Location: Newcastle upon Tyne

A cautionary tale adds some chill to a drunk’s festive Christmas Eve.

A Christmas Story
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A Christmas Story

Amateur film19523 minsSilent Location: Kent

It's Christmas 1952 and after the presents, the decorations and the cake are made ready, all generations of the family gather for the big party

Christmas 1949
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Christmas 1949

Home movie19494 minsSilent Location: Galgate

Merry Christmas! Anyone up for a game of table tennis to work off the turkey?

Christmas 1964 and 1965
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Christmas 1964 and 1965

Home movie19648 minsSilent Location: Sale

Christmas with a budgie and a Dalek keeps three generations of the family happy.

Gary's 1st Christmas
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Gary's 1st Christmas

Home movie19614 minsSilent Location: Broughton

A teddy bear, a toy telephone, and lots more for baby Gary's first Christmas.

Christmas at Marlene's 1965
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Christmas at Marlene's 1965

Home movie19655 minsSilent Location: Sale

Oh, you really shouldn't have, but thank you - presents and party hats for everyone at a family Christmas.

Geck Family Film Christmas 1962
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Geck Family Film Christmas 1962

Amateur film19626 minsSilent Location: North Walsham

A toy banjo and Groucho Marx novelty glasses-and-moustache supply all the fun for the youngest member of the Geck family at Christmastime.

A Christmas Party
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A Christmas Party

Amateur film19514 minsSilent Location: Wallsend

Baby boomers celebrate Christmas with a party at a prefab in post-war Wallsend.

Diamond Family Christmas
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Diamond Family Christmas

Amateur film19637 minsSilent Location: Sidcup

It's Christmas in Sidcup in 1963 and the Diamond family - including dancing Nan - open presents, tuck into the turkey and raise a glass – or three

Ireland Family New Year Party 1974/5
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Ireland Family New Year Party 1974/5

Home movie19744 minsSilent Location: Garston

Should old acquaintance be forgot... not likely at this family get-together in Liverpool.

Craig-cefn-parc: Mine, School and Christmas Cake
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Craig-cefn-parc: Mine, School and Christmas Cake

Home movie194814 minsSilent Location: Craig-cefn-parc

A stunning record of life in Craig-cefn-parc, Swansea, showing the local mine, the chapel (Pantycrwys), the school and the community.

Christmas 1935
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Christmas 1935

Amateur film193510 minsSilent Location: Middlesbrough

A Christmas tale of woe and merriment in Middlesbrough with a scary Santa and teetotaller tippler.

Christmas at Stafford
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Christmas at Stafford

Amateur film19155 minsSilent Location: Stafford

The war rages elsewhere, but the festive season offers a brief escape

Santa Claus' Factory
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Santa Claus' Factory

Non-Fiction19251 minsSilent

Topical Budget infiltrates a yuletide Aladdin’s Cave.

More Christmas Crackers in our Rentals collection.