Nov 26, 2023

Is Father Ted a Christmas Show?

Rachel Heaney takes a trip down memory lane to assess the festive relevance of an Irish Christmas classic

Rachel HeaneyContributing Writer

It’s nearly that time of year again when debate arises over the best television offerings for the festive period. For those in Ireland, the options are plentiful. The annual Late Late Toy Show for kids looking to fill their Christmas list with the most popular toys, American classics like Home Alone (1990), and cheesy rom-coms such as Love Actually (2003) immediately come to mind. Yet, it is undeniable that the real Christmas experience does not exclusively come from these dedicated Christmas offerings and also includes plenty of more cultural offerings such as the Snapper (1993) or The Commitments (1991).

However, even more Christmassy than Elf (2003) or Love Actually is Father Ted (1995), the immensely beloved series detailing the antics on Craggy Island. More specifically, the Christmas special, A Christmassy Ted (1996) encompasses Christmas, not neglecting to include gift giving, award receiving, and late-night TV watching. This episode is the epitome of all that makes Father Ted an iconic show, adding a layer of festive charm to a series already widely consumed on Christmas. The chaos in this episode, coupled with the festive setting make for a charming piece of casual festive watching – perfect for repeat viewing. Who could possibly forget the priest’s escape from the lingerie section? Or Ted’s well-intentioned gift of a Tea Master to Mrs. Doyle? It holds firm as one of the most iconic episodes from Irish telly! It, and the rest of the series, is ideal family viewing with fun and light-hearted plots, and the perfect amount of potty humour.

Father Ted’s familiar vibe is perfect for the holiday season, reminding many people of the now nostalgic traditional Irish Christmas. But what is this culturally significant yet elusive concept of Christmas? For many people, it’s the gathering of family after a long year apart, often at grandparents’ houses. For Ted, his ‘family’ gathering is the hoards of priests who attend his Golden Cleric Award ceremony. While not every Irish family has someone as dedicated to meddling with Christmas as Father Todd Unctious, as the chaos he unleashes on Craggy Island is reminiscent of the antics many families observe during the festive period – minus the spy ropes of course! 


While Ireland has moved away from explicit connections to the Catholic Church, Father Ted serves as a nod back to this link in a cultural sense. The insight into the Church that many Irish families possess heightens the impact of the series’ reliance on jokes at the expense of tradition and religion. I can’t imagine a series that is better Christmas viewing for the entire family, even trumping Mrs Brown’s Boys (2011). Sorry Dublin, but Craggy Island is the place to be this Christmas. 

What actually makes something ‘Christmas’ viewing? Some would insist that Father Ted and other similar series are categorically not. To find real Christmas favourites guaranteed to be enjoyed, it is sometimes best to stray from the obvious choices. Instead, go for a show that isn’t quite a Christmas production. You may be surprised at how this improves festive viewing. For example, Father Ted, which offers humour and a nostalgic commentary on Ireland’s old Catholic connection, cultural jokes and familiar nature is perfect for a festive feel without overbearing Christmassy elements. This Christmas, make sure to take another look at this cosy offering!

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