Raymond Briggs’ 1973 portrayal of a decidedly human Santa Claus, Father Christmas gets my vote as my favourite Christmas book ever. In this graphic novella, Briggs turns the traditional stereotypical view of Santa — jolly, benevolent, good natured — on its head.
Awoken from a dream about sunning himself on a tropical beach, Santa greets Christmas Eve with a mild curse: “Bloomin’ Christmas here again!”. This a very modern Santa, who grumbles about the weather (“bloomin’ snow!”) his herd (“bloomin’ deer!) and the demands of his work (“gettin’ a bloomin’ cold, now!”). He’s a one-man show: with only a couple of reindeer to help him, and no mention of Mrs. Claus, we follow our man as he readies himself for the biggest day of the year: Christmas. He flies around the United Kingdom delivering presents, visiting cottages and caravans, and ending, appropriately, at Buckingham Palace. Gifts delivered, he settles down to a nice dinner, a lovely nip of brandy, a cigar (I know!) and peruses travel catalogs for warmer climes, which is just what you’d probably want to do too, if you were in his boots.
There are few words in this book (and most of them are the word “bloomin’!”) but Briggs’ colourful and evocative illustrations more than make up for the absence of text. I’ve blogged about this book before, at least in its movie form, so great is my affection for it. Father Christmas appears to be out of print here in Canada, but it is available from Amazon.com.uk. and abebooks.com