Newly colourised photographs show Christmas in 20th century Britain

Christmas nostalgia in colour: Pictures of festive celebrations in 1930s, 1940s and 1950s Britain show youngsters kissing under the mistletoe, a little boy sitting on Santa’s lap and a delighted girl with her haul of holly

  • Pictures of festive celebrations in 1930s, 1940s and 1950s Britain show a nostalgic side of Christmas cheer
  • Snaps include Father Christmas and his lion cub in 1937 London, while children perch around a tree in 1947
  • Other images show Santa Claus gifting a boy a toy horse and a young couple share a kiss under the mistletoe
  • Black and white photographs were brought to life by the colourist Royston Leonard, 56, of Cardiff, Wales

A set of fascinating festive photographs that have been newly colourised show the sparkle in children’s eyes shone as bright as ever during Christmas celebrations in 20th century Britain. 

The original black and white images are now bursting with colour, and show how families celebrated late December across the United Kingdom in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. 

The pictures show children in pressed pyjamas patiently huddled as they wait to receive the paper crackers nestled in their Christmas tree in 1947. 

Another shows a young pair pucker up as they share a kiss underneath the mistletoe, proving the tradition remained alive and well in the 1950s. 

And in other images, a shocked crowd gathers around Santa Claus and his unusual assistant, a lion cub, in 1937 London. 

A group of children in their pressed pyjamas huddle around the Christmas tree as they are handed paper decorations in London 1947

A young pair share a kiss under the mistletoe as they’re surrounded by balloons, toys and bunting on Christmas

Santa Claus surprises a stunned crowd with his Christmas gift in London in 1937. Children watch on as he holds a lion cub aloft 

Father Christmas sits on a gold-plated throne and tries to crack a smile from a young boy who appears more interested in his beard than the decorative white toy horse he’s holding in 1952

In one of the restored photographs, a toddler dressed in his striking red seasonal outfit doesn’t appear to be filled with much Christmas cheer as he’s pictured in floods of tears.

One 1952 picture shows an awe-struck toddler grasping at Santa Claus’ beard while the man in red tries to show-off a decorative white toy horse. 

In another, a crowd of giggling children can’t believe their luck when Father Christmas casually join their queue for their No. 6 bus as he gets his last-minute Christmas shopping done on London’s iconic Oxford Street in 1981.

And one little girl sporting a bright white bean hat looks delighted with her haul as she’s pictured carrying a miniature Christmas tree and some holly home with her. 

A crowd of giggling children can’t believe their luck when Father Christmas casually join their queue for their No. 6 bus as he gets his last-minute Christmas shopping done on London’s iconic Oxford Street in 1981

In one of the restored photographs, a toddler dressed in his striking red seasonal outfit doesn’t appear to be filled with much Christmas cheer as he’s pictured in floods of tears amid a backdrop of neatly-wrapped presents

A little girl sporting a bright white bean hat looks delighted with her haul as she’s pictured carrying a miniature Christmas tree and some holly home with her

A young girl clutches Father Christmas’ hand as he asks a group of children what they want to open on December 25 in 1951

The festive photographs of yesteryear were brought to life by colourist Royston Leonard, 56, of Cardiff, who has painstakingly brought the snaps into the 21st century.

The NHS worker explained: ‘Seeing Christmas from years passed in full colour is a magical experience.

‘In these pictures you can see the love within the family and how people made do with very little back then.

‘The highlight for me is the fun and joy in the children’s eyes as they enjoy the season and seeing Santa.’

Colourisation projects are often a laborious exercise. 

Using photo editing software, an artist identifies the range of grey levels in each picture, then frame-by-frame, each layer of the black and white photograph is brought to life with a burst of colour.

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