Father Christmas (ISBN 978-0-241-02260-3) is a children's graphic novel of thirty-two pages, written and illustrated by the British author Raymond Briggs. It was first published in 1973.
The book's title character and protagonist is quite different from the "jolly old elf" described in "A Visit from St. Nicholas". Briggs' Father Christmas is often grumpy (he rarely speaks without using the mild swear word "bloomin'"). To him, delivering presents on Christmas Eve is simply a job and not one which he always enjoys. He hates snow and wintery weather and longs for the summer sun. The portrayal of Father Christmas in the book is also unusual in that he appears to live in an ordinary house in a provincial English town. He lives alone, apart from his dog, cat and two reindeer, and has no helpers of any kind. In some ways, Briggs' Father Christmas is very human. He enjoys alcohol, is seen using the toilet and is even seen dreaming about attractive young women.
There is very little dialog in the book, largely because Father Christmas does not interact with many other people. Most of the story is told in pictures alone.
The book was awarded the Kate Greenaway Medal for the best book illustrated by a British subject. For the fiftieth anniversary of the Kate Greenaway Medal in 2005, Father Christmas was included in a list of the top ten books ever to have been awarded the prize.
A sequel, Father Christmas Goes on Holiday, was published in 1975.
As Christmas approaches, Father Christmas gets more and more mail from children requesting presents every day. He reads every letter, having to read some of them in the bath tub and on the toilet. Father Christmas also has to pick up his suit from the dry cleaner's shop. He responds, "I should be so bloomin' lucky!" when the woman in the shop asks him if he is going to a masquerade party. He takes his sleigh out from storage and gradually fills it with gifts. Where he gets the presents from is not explained.
On the morning of Christmas Eve, Father Christmas' alarm clock rudely awakens him from his dream about relaxing in a swimming pool with many beautiful young women on a summer's day. He listens to the weather forecast on the radio and is upset to hear that snow is predicted. He feeds his dog and cat, whom he envies for not having to go out to work in the bad weather, hitches his reindeer to the sleigh and sets off on his way.
During his journey, Father Christmas encounters both snow and rain. He comes across many homes that do not have chimneys and he is confused about how he should enter them. He pauses to enjoy the liquor that children have left out for him. The last house that he has to deliver to is Buckingham Palace. Before he arrives at the palace, it is already morning and he has crossed paths with a milkman. The milkman is surprised that Father Christmas has not yet finished his deliveries.
After returning home, Father Christmas prepares his Christmas dinner and takes a bath. After dinner, Father Christmas opens his own Christmas presents. He is pleased to get a bottle of cognac from his friend Fred but is unhappy with the tasteless socks and tie that his female relatives have bought for him. The book ends with Father Christmas going to bed. In the final panel, he grumbles to the reader, "Happy bloomin' Christmas to you too!"
An animated adaptation of the book, which also incorporates material from the 1975 sequel Father Christmas Goes on Holiday, was first shown on Channel 4 television in the UK on December 24, 1991. The adaptation is largely faithful to its source material. However, the character of Father Christmas (voiced by comedian Mel Smith) is somewhat softened in the TV special. Unlike in the book, he smiles when he delivers the last line, "Happy bloomin' Christmas to you too!" The special was further edited for release in the United States, most notably, Father Christmas was revoiced by William Dennis Hunt and the word "bloomin'" was largely replaced by the word "merry".
- "Old Santeclaus with Much Delight" (1821)
- "A Letter from Santa Claus" (1875)
- "Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride" (1889)
- The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1902)
- "A Kidnapped Santa Claus" (1904)
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1939)
- The Polar Express (1985)
- Winnie and Wilbur Meet Santa (2015)
- Santa's Husband (2017)
- Today, most British children consider Father Christmas to be synonymous with Santa Claus, although they were originally two different characters.
- Raymond Briggs' father was a coalman who had to get up very early each morning to deliver coal to people's houses. Briggs imagined Father Christmas to be a similar sort of deliveryman, saying that he always saw the character as the ultimate coalman or milkman.
- British children usually leave out sherry and a mince pie for Father Christmas, rather than milk and cookies.