Father Christmas in English Folk Plays

Home Page > Articles > Father Christmas Map

Distribution of Father Christmas in English Folk Plays

Key Father Christmas's introductory speech Earliest date
FF0000 Hare comes I ould father christmas welcom or welcom not
I hope ould Father Christmas will never be forgot

Further unplottable plays with this speech.


The data for this distribution map comes from the Historical Database of Folk Play Scripts at www.folkplay.info/Texts.htm, which covers traditional plays mostly dating from before 1930. Forty six plays contain Father Christmas's introductory couplet, of which the twelve listed above cannot be plotted to specific locations.

The map shows that Father Christmas is essentially confined to plays from the south and west of England and Wales. The outlying point in the north of England is the exception that proves the rule. It represents St. George and the Turkish Knight, a play performed in Longsight, Manchester, and published in booklet form about 1885. However, the play was 'arranged' by J.Augustus Atkinson using material mostly taken from the play in Charlotte Young's book The Christmas Mummers (1858). Her text was in turn based on a traditional Hampshire play. The derivation of the Longsight play is therefore also southern English.

The earliest mummers' plays with Father Christmas come from Truro, Cornwall (late 1780s), and Romsey, Hampshire (1796-1837).

If you wish to investigate further, try looking up 'Father Christmas' (and 'Mother Christmas') in my Folk Play Scripts Explorer, and explore the links. Alternatively, try the Script Collection's Character Name Index. See also the article I published in Traditional Drama Forum (2003) on a mid-19th century mummers' illustration showing Father Christmas.

Peter Millington


J.Augustus Atkinson (1885) St. George and the Turkish Knight: A Ryghte Auncient and Tragicale Christmas Drama, as represented at St. John's School, Longsight.
Manchester, John Heywood, [1885?]
Internet URL: www.folkplay.info/Texts/88sj89aj.htm, Accessed 20th Dec.2006

Peter Millington (2003) Who is the Guy on the Left?: An Unexpected Twist to a 19th-century Mummers' Illustration,
Traditional Drama Forum, Jan.2003, No.6,
Internet URL: www.folkplay.info/Forum/TD_Forum_6_Sandys.htm, Accessed 20th Dec.2006

Peter Millington (2004-2006) Historical Database of Folk Play Scripts,
Internet URL: www.folkplay.info/Texts.htm, Accessed 20th Dec.2006

Peter Millington (2007) Folk Play Scripts Explorer,
Internet URL: www.mastermummers.org/scripts/explorer.htm, Accessed 2nd Jan.2007

[Charlotte Mary Young] (1858) The Christmas Mummers,
London, J. and C.Mozley, 1856, pp.87-93
Extract at Internet URL: www.folkplay.info/Texts/85su--yc.htm, Accessed 20th Dec.2006

© 2006, Peter Millington (petemillington@virginmedia.com). Last updated: 08-Apr-2016