What were the traditions of Christmas books for children that led to Raymond Briggs’s glorious landmarks Father Christmas, Father Christmas Goes on Holiday, and The Snowman? This talk will discuss these inherited traditions alongside Briggs’s enduring classics for the holiday season.

This talk takes an out of season look at children’s Christmas books and illustrations from the eighteenth to the twentieth century in the light of the representation of Father Christmas, Scrooges, revelry, the experiences of the working class, kindness, death, and charity. Raymond Briggs’s Christmas books pick up significant strands from these traditions and imbue them with his own special forms of irreverence and nostalgia. At a time when Christmas picturebooks were growing more sentimentally straightforward and mercantile, Briggs returned to a fuller sense of the potential joys and disappointments of the holiday season.

This talk is being given by Eugene Giddens, Skinner-Young Professor at Anglia Ruskin University and author of Christmas Books for Children (Cambridge University Press, 2019).

This event is being hosted as part of Cambridge University Libraries’ exhibition, Raymond Briggs: A Retrospective (29 April – 26 August 2023). You are welcome to explore the exhibition before this event. Please note there will not be time to visit the exhibition at the end of the event.