The Comicon Advent Calendar : Day 24 – What Better Way To End Than With ‘Father Christmas’
by Richard Bruton
And here we are, at the end of the Comicon Advent Calendar, our December festive gift to you. And what better way to end it all than with one of the best Christmas books there’s ever been, from one of the greatest cartoonists there’s ever been – Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs.
We always used to have a Christmas Eve tradition of putting Molly to bed, so excited for the day to come, with a few great Christmas books. And Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas was always read that night, a perfect book for your hyper-excited kids!
It’s a magical tale by a genius of comic making. Sure, The Snowman might be more well-known, but I always preferred Father Christmas. After all, how could you not be enamoured by this man…
Published in 1973 and followed up in 1975 by Father Christmas Goes on Holiday, this is a beautiful, magical, and wonderfully grumpy sort of tale – made all the more so by the connection to Briggs’ father.
Ernest Briggs was a milkman and it was the connection Briggs made between his dear old dad, working all hours in all weathers, and Father Christmas that turned this Father Christmas into the memorable curmudgeon, just a working man who gets up and goes to work – albeit a very special sort of work.
Of course, there’s more of Briggs’ father and his mother, Ethel, in my all time favourite of Briggs’ work, Ethel and Ernest, a truly beautiful tale that was recently made into a rather beautiful feature film.
But back to Father Christmas. With the idea in Briggs’ mind that this Father Christmas was going to be a working man just like his father, he then added so many particular details of his own parents lives – all the antiquated elements of life in the early 20th Century, the outside toilet, the chamber pot, no central heating on those cold mornings, all those things some of us still remember from our grandparents houses back in the day.
There’s even a small cameo in the book for Ernest Briggs… (Oh, and registration of his milk float? ERB 1900 – Ernest’s initials and birth year.)
So, in Father Christmas, Santa’s a grumpy old thing, fed up with the endless present run, fed up with the cold, the chimneys, the cats, the aerials. The only thing brightening his night is the goodly supply of food and drink.
Particularly the drink.
There’s a marvelous piece from the Guardian website with Briggs talking his way through the making of the book)…
“I’ve always enjoyed taking something that’s fantasy – like a bogeyman or Father Christmas – and imagining it as wholly real. Take Father Christmas. What do we know about him? Well, he’s got a white beard, so he must be quite old. He’s rather fat, so he probably likes his food. He’s got a red face and a red nose, so he probably likes his drink. And he’s been doing this dreadful job for donkey’s years: going out all night long, in all weathers. He’s sick to the back teeth of it: who wouldn’t be? So it follows, naturally, that he’s going to be grumpy.” – Raymond Briggs
So, read, enjoy, the work of a genius, the night shift of a grumpy old man who children adore…
Later on, once in the air, deliveries are made troublesome…
Until finally, it’s home, sweet home…
So yes, to one and all – Happy Blooming Christmas. Spend it with a wonderful book – Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs.