On screen, they’re timeless, immortal on our screens for four weeks a year.
However, in reality the stars of some of the most famous Christmas films ever to made have enjoyed – or endured – very different paths in life.
From now-clean Macaulay Culkin’s very public battle with drugs and booze to how young star of 2006 film The Holiday, Miffy Englefield, has swapped angelic for an altogether punkier vibe.
Wind the celluloid back even further and Kathryn Grimes, who made her acting debut aged six in post-war Christmas cracker It’s a Wonderful, is now 78 and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation has seen young Ross Griswold carve out a pretty impressive career including TV hit Big Bang Theory.
Here, Femail finds out how the biggest Christmas child stars have fared post festive film success…
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THOMAS BRODIE SANGSTER AND OLIVIA OLSON: LOVE ACTUALLY, 2003
Way back when! Love Actually stars Olivia Olson and Thomas Brodie-Sangster pictured attending the Love Actually premiere in New York City in 2003
All grown up: Olivia as she looks now in a recent Instagram photo; the star shot to fame playing Joanna, who sang ‘All I Want For Christmas’ in the Christmas box office smash
They melted hearts with their pre-teen romance in Love Actually playing Joanna and Sam. Fast forward 15 years and the stars behind the characters are now in their mid-twenties.
Olivia Olson, who was just nine years old when she sang All I Want For Christmas in Love Actually as Joanna, told interviewers this week she was surprised fans are still interested in the film.
She said: ‘I can’t believe people still care, that they’re still talking about [the movie] it’s so awesome… 15 years is a long time.’
Meanwhile, her childhood sweetheart, Sam, was played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster. Just 12 at the time, 28-year-old Thomas has gone on to enjoy a stellar career so far.
Olivia has since turned her hand to music, this year releasing an album ‘Nowhere Land’
Meanwhile, Thomas, 28, has gone to build a successful film and TV career with roles in The Maze Runner series of teen movies, Game of Thrones and Wolf Hall
Thomas Brodie-Sangster shot to fame with his role as lovestruck Sam
Thomas played Liam Neeson’s stepson and had an iconic scene where he pursued his love interest Joanna through the airport before she boarded a plane.
He then landed a lead role in Nanny McPhee alongside Emma Thompson, and has acted with Sir Ben Kingsley as child ruler Romulus Augustus, the last Roman Emperor.
Unlike many other child actors, Thomas’s star has continued to rise with roles as Jojen Reed in Game of Thrones and Newt in The Maze Runner series of teen movies.
Now 28, his youthful appearance puts him in the frame for a wider range of roles. He starred as Thomas Cromwell’s 15-year-old protege in the BBC’s adaptation of Wolf Hall and most recently appeared in Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. The rising star is also filming next year in new movie Dragon Rider.
MIFFY ENGLEFIELD: THE HOLIDAY, 2006
Angelic: Miffy Englefield played adorable Sophie (pictured) in The Holiday, who was one of Jude Law’s character’s two daughters
Jude Law and Cameron Diaz’ London-based romantic comedy The Holiday has remained a staple for Christmas movie fans
Miffy is now 19 and has adopting a punk image, completely with a nose piercing, heavy eye makeup and studded necklaces. Pictured, a selfie taken by Miffy last month
After The Holiday, Miffy (pictured in fishnets and a Union Jack print top) went on to star in 12 episodes of Casualty between 2008 and 2010
She was the adorable child star of one of the nation’s best loved Christmas films The Holiday, but you would struggle to recognise Miffy Englefield today.
The 19-year-old actress, from Hampshire, who played Sophie in the 2006 film has transformed from her sweet seven-year-old self into a punk with a very racy Instagram account.
The account is filled with pictures of Miffy sporting piercings, dark eyeliner and fishnet tights to support her new edgy image.
The teen, from Hampshire, (pictured in fishnets, leopard print and a fur coat), describes herself as ‘Short, loud and mostly ridiculous’ on her Instagram account
Miffy’s image is a far cry from that of her character Sophie in the much-loved Christmas film where she stared as the daughter of Jude Law’s character Graham alongside her on-screen sister Olivia (Emma Pritchard).
Miffy was just seven when the film came out and she was seen playing the scene-stealing little girl who attempted to set her dad up with Cameron Diaz’s character Amanda.
Miffy’s real name is actually Rebecca but she got her nickname because of the messy hair she used to sport as a little girl.
In her Instagram bio the teen describes herself as ‘Short, loud and mostly ridiculous’.
She also calls herself a ‘pint sized punk rocker that can probably eat spicier food than you’.
At the age of six, Karolyn played Zuzu Bailey in one of the best loved Christmas films of all time.
KAROLYN GRIMES: IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, 1946
Six-year-old Karolyn Grimes (centre with Jimmy Stewart) starred as Zuzu Bailey in the 1946 Christmas classic It’s A Wonderful Life
Karolyn Grimes, now 78, makes a living from touring screenings of It’s A Wonderful Life where she signs autographs and reveals secrets from the set. Interest in the film only picked up in the 1980s as it wasn’t initially a success
Karolyn, now 78, started acting at the age of four and her career spanned 16 films, including appearances alongside John Wayne, Cary Grant, Bing Crosby and Betty Grable.
She had already acted in four films when she landed the role of Zuzu, the daughter of the film’s protagonist George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart.
George is a man who has given up on his dreams to help others but is depressed and plans to commit suicide on Christmas Eve.
Karolyn can be seen climbing on to Jimmy Stewart’s back. He played George Bailey, a man whose guardian angel stops him committing suicide by showing him how many lives he’s touched
His guardian angel Clarence intervenes and shows him how he’s touched the lives of people in his hometown Bedford Falls, and how different everyone’s lives would be if he’d never been born.
Although Karolyn only had a small part, she got to speak the film’s most memorable line: ‘Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.’
Karolyn’s film career came to an abrupt end when her mother died from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and her father died in a car accident when she was in her early teens. She was sent to live with her aunt in a tiny town called Osceola, Missouri.
She went on to become a medical technician and had two daughters with her first husband who was killed in a hunting accident two years after they divorced.
Karolyn (front centre) only played a small part but got to speak the film’s most famous line: ‘Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.’
Her second husband already had three children and they went on to have two together, making her a mother of seven.
In 1989 Karolyn’s youngest child committed suicide at the age of 18, which she’d described as the ‘most devastating’ period of her life.
Fiver years later her husband of 25 years then died from lung cancer.
But during this dark period, it was the film that saved Karolyn by giving her a new focus.
It’s A Wonderful Life was not a success when it was released in 1943, but in the Seventies it started to see a surge in popularity as it was out of copyright and TV stations started to screen it.
In 1980, Karolyn got a knock on her door asking for an interview, and soon after started receiving fan mail.
The actress was 40 years old before she saw the film in full and realised how wonderful it was. One of her ventures includes Zuzu Baile’s It’s A Wonderful Life Cookbook
She admits that at this point she had never even seen the whole film.
‘When I watched the movie – oh my goodness – I realised what a wonderful film it really was and how it touched so many people’s lives,’ she previously told
She’s since made a career on the back of her notoriety, touring big-screen showings of the film where she signs autographs and shares stories from the set.
In March 2001 she released Zuzu Bailey’s It’s A Wonderful Life Cookbook of recipes inspired by Bedford Falls, including Harry Bailey Hero Sandwich and Mrs. Martini’s Creamy Linguine.
As well as her public appearances, Karolyn tours the antique circuit selling movie memorabilia.
JOHNNY GALECKI, NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION, 1989
For many, there is no funnier Christmas comedy than National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
As the Griswold family prepare to welcome relatives over, dad Clark will stop at nothing to present the most christmassy house ever, including 25,000 lights strewn around the property’s exterior.
Funniest Christmas film ever? The Griswold family launched the careers of both (pictured back row) Johnny Galecki and Juliette Lewis after they starred alongside Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo
Galecki has gone on to star in a host of mainstream television and films, most famously The Big Bang Theory in which he plays Dr Leonard Hofstadter
Winter fun: The film saw Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) determined to give his family the most spectacular Christmas ever – with disastrous consequences
Looking on in disbelief is Russ Griswold, played by Johnny Galecki. His sibling in the film was a teenage Juliette Lewis.
Now 43, Galecki was 13 when he took the part and he’s seen his career since enjoy an upward trajectory.
Galecki played Darlene’s boyfriend in the original series of Rosanne and saw his fame cemented by The Big Bang Theory, in which he played – and still plays – Dr Leonard Hofstadter.
Although Galecki hasn’t married, he dated Big Bang Theory co-star Kaley Cuoco for two years and is now said to be dating actress Alaina Meyer.
CARRIE KEI HEIM: SANTA CLAUS THE MOVIE, 1985
Tokyo-born Carrie, then 12, starred in the 1985 film Santa Claus: The Movie which sees sees Santa trying to foil the plot of an evil toy manufacturer called B.Z. who is trying to take over Christmas.
Carrie played his niece Cornelia who teams up with an elf called Patch to help save Christmas for the world’s children.
Despite a big budget and the star power of Dudley Moore in the role of Patch, the film was a box office flop.
Carrie Kei Heim was 12 years old when she starred in Santa Claus: The Movie in 1985. Despite a big budget it was a box office flop, however it’s gained cult status as a Christmas classic over the years
Carrie, 45, went on to star in a made-for-TV sequel to Disney’s 1961 classic The Parent Trap, which was her last film role
After a career in law she is now an aspiring novelist and is married with one child
However, over the years it’s become a cult Christmas classic.
After playing Cornelia, Carrie’s next film role was in a made-for-TV sequel to Disney’s 1961 classic The Parent Trap.
She attended Hunter College High School in New York, a secondary school for gifted students.
She went on to attend a private liberal arts school in New York, Vassar College, where she gained a BA in French.
A scene from the film shows Carrie hitching a ride in Santa’s sleigh alongside Dudley Moore, (front left) who played an elf called Patch
Two years later she graduated from another New York university with a BA in English and Theatre.
In 2001, she got a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania and worked as a law clerk and then litigator until 2008.
After losing her job she has been pursuing a carer as a novelist and runs a
MACAULAY CULKIN: HOME ALONE, 1990
It’s been 25 years since the world fell in love with the eight-year-old Kevin McCallister as he defended himself and his home from burglars in the Christmas comedy classic Home Alone.
The 1990 film not only took in almost $500 million at the box office and spawned four sequels, but also launched the career of child actor Macaulay Culkin, who became a millionaire by the time he was 12 years old.
The talented child actor went on to conquer a variety of roles, from the benevolent billionaire in Richie Rich to the psychopathic, murdering terror child in The Good Son.
Home Alone spwaned four sequels and launched the carer of ten-year-old Macaulay Culkin who became a millionaire by the time he was 12 years old
The world fell in love with the eight-year-old Kevin McCallister as he defended himself and his home from burglars in the Christmas comedy classic Home Alone
Now 38, Culkin appears in good health again after reportedly struggling with drug addiction
He is still recognised as the biggest child star of his generation. The late 1990s were relatively inactive for Macaulay and, even after returning to acting in 2000, the majority of his onscreen roles since have been cameos.
His biggest acting role of the past decade has been his voice work for animated comedy program Robot Chicken.
In 2013 he also started a pizza-themed Velvet Underground cover band called Pizza Underground, which has played a series of shows across the US and the UK.
The former child star formed a Velvet Underground cover band called Pizza Underground, pictured here performing in 2014, but the group disbanded in 2016
Macaulay has certainly earned more attention for his off-screen antics than for his on-screen roles.
The actor, who is now 38, reportedly struggled with a dependence on drugs.
In 2012, the National Enquirer alleged that he was battling a heroin addiction, which his publicist categorically denied.
He was then reported as having developed an intense nicotine habit that saw him smoking up to 60 cigarettes a day, leading to new health fears for the troubled star.
More recently, the star appears happier and healthier, regularly posting light-hearted photos to his Instagram account. In 2016, he appeared in a Compare the Market adverts alongside the brand’s famous meerkats and his most recent appearances in the spotlight have largely been cameo television roles, playing himself.
Macualay recently appeared in a parody video of his famous role, referring to being left in the house for a week fending off ‘two psychopath home invaders.’
MARA WILSON: MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET – 1994
She was one of the most successful female child actresses of the Nineties.
After her star turn in Mrs Doubtfire at the tender age of four, Mara Wilson landed lead roles in Matilda and the remake of Miracle On 34th Street.
Aged seven she played Susan Walker, a little girl who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, originally portrayed by Natalie Wood in 1947.
Mara Wilson was one of the most successful child actresses of the 1990s with roles in Mrs Doubtfire, Matilda and the remake of Miracle On 34th Street (above)
Now 31, Mara has ditched acting for good, it seems, turning her hand to writing for television instead
Mara said she felt uncomfortable with the idea of fame and wanted to pursue a career as a scriptwriter instead of being an actress for the rest of her life
Even then she said she didn’t know if she wanted to act for the rest of her life and expressed a dream of becoming a script writer.
She went on to have bit roles in a handful on TV shows and low-budget films, before turning her back on film acting completely.
Mara studied art at New York University and has fulfilled her dream of working as a playwright.
The adorable star acted alongside Sir Richard Attenborough in the 1994 remake of Miracle On 34th Street. Her role was played by Natalie Wood in the original film
In an interview in 2009, Mara spoke about teenage girls knocking on her door at 12am to introduce themselves and invite her to parties.
And she admitted she didn’t like to talk about her past as an actress, calling it ‘an embarrassing childhood memory’.
She said: ‘I remember cringeing a bit and thinking “Oh no, they’re going to lump me with the Olsen twins”.
‘I’m not an Olsen twin… I have nothing against the Olsen twins. I’m just not like them.’
TAYLOR MOMSEN: HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS – 2000
Actress and singer Taylor Momsen, now 25, began her career with her breakout role in How The Grinch Stole Christmas – the film adaptation of the Dr Seuss tale at the age of seven.
Roles in Hansel and Gretel and Spy Kids 2 followed, but then her career went quiet for a while.
She was in the top three for the part of Hannah Montana, which eventually went to Miley Cyrus but her profile skyrocketed again when she landed the part of teenage socialite Jenny Humphrey in the show, Gossip Girl.
Seven-year-old Taylor Momsen starred in the film adaptation of the Dr Seuss tale How The Grinch Stole Christmas, as well as singing on the movie’s soundtrack
After a role in Gossip Girl, Taylor has turned her back on acting to focus on music and now fronts the rock band The Pretty Reckless
However, her heart has always been in music and she even recorded a song called Why Can’t I Find You? for the Grinch soundtrack.
At eight, she wrote a song called Blackout, which The Hills star Heidi Montag went on record for her debut album, Superficial.
In 2009 her band The Pretty Reckless landed a deal with Interscope Records. They have released two successful albums and Taylor now spends her time touring with the band.
Her image is as far away from the cheery youngster as possible and her trademark style includes peroxide hair, thick black eyeliner, ripped fishnet tights and leather.
She has described shows in which she invited fans onstage but had to stop because it got ‘a little violent’, telling
And after saying she prefers singing to acting, it’s unlikely we’ll see her return to our screens in any film role – let alone a heart-warming festive one, any time soon.
JAKE LLOYD: JINGLE ALL THE WAY – 1996
He played Jamie the adorable son of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character Howard Langston in the 90s Christmas classic but Jake Lloyd is a far cry from his festive alter-ego these days.
In 2015 at the age of 26, the American actor was arrested after he lead police on a high speed car chase.
In April the following year his mother Lisa revealed that her son was suffering from schizophrenia and he was then transferred to a psychiatric facility.
Jake Lloyd played the son of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character Howard Langston in the 1996 movie Jingle All The Way
He later went on to play Anakin Skywalker (left) in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace before being arrested in a high speed car chase (mug shot seen right) in 2015, and later being diagnosed with schizophrenia
Aside from the festive classic Jake also starred as Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars the Phantom Menace with Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson.
The film made a total of $2 billion from worldwide box office receipts and rentals. He was only 10 years old at the time.
Following his brush with fame, Lloyd quit acting altogether claiming that the role had made his childhood a ‘living hell.’
‘Other children were really mean to me,’ he said in a 2012 interview. ‘They would make the sound of the light saber every time they saw me. It was totally mad.’
Lloyd said at one point he was doing around 60 interviews a day.
‘My entire school life was really a living hell — and I had to do up to 60 interviews a day.’