The first CPFC’s involvement in Boxing Day tradition

Victorian football at Christmas
Victorian football at Christmas

Festive football in Britain is as much a Christmas tradition as roast turkey and mince pies.

While clubs across Europe take in a winter break, fans in England can indulge in a feast of fixtures over the holiday period.

Boxing Day is the prime event where many people have the day off to watch games with friends and family.

The origin of this custom dates back to 1860 when the world’s two oldest football clubs, Sheffield FC and Hallam FC, locked horns on December 26.

Boxing Day became one of four new public holidays in the UK after MP Sir John Lubbock helped establish the 1871 Bank Holidays Act.

His son Edgar was familiar with the first Crystal Palace FC players, having lined up against them for Gitanos and many times in cricket matches.

That year, the original CPFC played their first reported Boxing Day encounter against Harrow Chequers.

The amateur Palace players had the chance to burn off the Christmas pudding at a waterlogged Crystal Palace Park.

The match was cut short after an hour with Palace a goal down after captain Douglas Allport agreed with his counterpart that the surface was too slippery.

Harrow Chequers – a team made up of past and present Harrow School pupils – visited for a return fixture the following season.

They began the 1872 contest with just eight players and Palace punished them by going in front through Alexander Morten.

The missing men eventually arrived, but the hosts extended their advantage with goals from Alfred Lloyd and George Fleet to win 3-0.

Palace enjoyed a local derby in the 1873 Boxing Day clash when they entertained South Norwood.

This club was founded two years earlier and played its home matches in a field opposite the Spread Eagle on Portland Road.

The meeting at Crystal Palace Park was “witnessed by an immense crowd of holiday makers,” reported the South London Chronicle.

And the spectators received plenty of Christmas cheer with six goals fired in on the park’s cricket field.

Palace started with three players down and South Norwood made it count by taking the lead.

When latecomers got to the pitch, the ‘Palatians’ showed their superiority by hitting home five goals.

Robert Kingsford notched a hat-trick with the other strikes coming from Charles Eastlake Smith and England international Charles Chenery.

No more Boxing Day matches played by the first Crystal Palace are recorded in the newspapers.

The old club disbanded in 1876 after losing their home ground at Crystal Palace Park for a second time.

It wasn’t long before a full programme of English football would be held on Christmas Day and typically another full schedule on Boxing Day.

In 1905, the present day CPFC hosted a Boxing Day match in their first season against Portsmouth Reserves.

Clubs would have bumper crowds for these yuletide dates and the December 25 fixtures would continue right up until the late 1950s.

It’s not only Christmas cards, crackers and decorated trees the Victorians initiated. Boxing Day football is an English institution that is an essential part of the festivities celebrated today.

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