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Father Christmas is a British children's picture book written and drawn by Raymond Briggs and published by Hamish Hamilton in 1973. Briggs won the annual Kate Greenaway Medal from the Library Association, recognising the year's best children's book illustration by a British subject.[2] For the 50th anniversary of the Medal (1955–2005), a panel named it one of the top ten winning works, which composed the ballot for a public election of the nation's favourite.[3]

Father Christmas
Father Christmas (comics).jpg
AuthorRaymond Briggs
IllustratorRaymond Briggs
Cover artistRaymond Briggs
CountryUnited Kingdom
GenreChildren's graphic novel
PublisherHamish Hamilton
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardcover)
LC ClassLCC PZ7.B7646 Fat3[1]
Followed byFather Christmas Goes on Holiday 



Father Christmas presents a dramatically different modern interpretation of the character. Far from being jolly, this Father Christmas is a brusque man who works from a normal house with the usual tasks involved with his delivery on Christmas Eve. There is no sign of either Mrs. Claus (apart from a hanging wall picture in one scene, suggesting he is a widower) or the elves in this apparently solo operation. Living with him are his cat and dog, and two reindeer. While he bumbles and mumbles about his work and life, it is clear he has a deep affection for his animals (he gives his cat and dog presents) and enjoys his work. He comes across as a stereotypical old man who complains about everything but ultimately loves what he does.

The book depicts Father Christmas' deliveries as he deals with a range of unusual residences while taking welcome breaks with food and drinks put out for him. Along the way, Father Christmas talks to only one person, a milkman intended to represent the author's father, Ernest Briggs. Despite his difficulties, Father Christmas completes his itinerary with his last stop being apparently Buckingham Palace.

Upon returning home, Father Christmas opens his own presents. He grumpily disapproves of his own presents (apart from a bottle of brandy from Fred), but a jollier, more festive side of him also starts to show as he sings carols in the shower and calls his Christmas dinner "Lovely grub!" Exhausted after his travels, he retires to bed, though not before giving his cat and dog their own presents and wishing the reader "Happy Blooming Christmas!"

Coward, McCann & Geoghan published the US edition of Father Christmas in October (ISBN 978-0-698-20272-6).[1][4] Kirkus Reviews gave the book a starred review, signifying remarkable merit. In part, "Briggs projects Santa's day in comic strip sequence and balloon monologue, from his waking from a dream of sun ... You don't have to be British to take to this very human Father Christmas – but it helps to have an open eye for all the throwaway background detail."[4]

In a BBC documentary of 31 December 2018, Raymond Briggs said that Father Christmas was partly based on his father as they were both delivery men. He also said that he received a letter of complaint from an American because of one scene in which Father Christmas is sitting on the toilet.

Sequel and adaptationEdit

Briggs completed a sequel, Father Christmas Goes on Holiday, published in 1975 by Hamish Hamilton in Britain and Coward, McCann & Geoghan in America.[5]

The two books were adapted in 1991 as a 25-minute animated film, Father Christmas. Dave Unwin was the director and Mel Smith was the voice of Father Christmas.[6]


  1. ^ a b "Father Christmas" (first U.S. edition). Library of Congress Catalog Record. Retrieved 4 December 2012.
  2. ^ (Greenaway Winner 1973). Living Archive: Celebrating the Carnegie and Greenaway Winners. CILIP. 2007?. Retrieved 2 July 2012.
  3. ^ "70 Years Celebration: Anniversary Top Tens". The CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children's Book Awards. CILIP. 2007. Retrieved 2 July 2012.
  4. ^ a b "FATHER CHRISTMAS by Raymond Briggs" (starred review). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 4 December 2012. No review date. Publication date (U.S.) for the reviewed book, 1 October 1973.
  5. ^ "Formats and Editions of Father Christmas goes on holiday". WorldCat. Retrieved 4 December 2012.
  6. ^ Father Christmas (1991). Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 4 December 2012.

External linksEdit