Top 7 Most Admirable Father Figures from Christmas Stories

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From Bob Cratchit to George Bailley, who are the best father figures from Christmas movies and literature?

#7. Old Man Parker in The Christmas Story

As a child I never wished my father to be more like Old Man Parker, but he’s always had a few good qualities that make him stand out. First, he’s not too hard on Ralphy after the fight with Scut Farkus, which I appreciate because Farkus deserved what he got, and Ralphy didn’t exactly take any pleasure from it. Second, he’s a spirited and excitable old man, whether it’s bargaining down the Christmas tree or taking great pride in his leg-lamp—he’s a man that visibly cares. Finally, he makes the executive decision to give his son the Red Ryder BB gun, despite the potential danger, his wife’s disapproval, and general dissent of the entire town. He gives the BB gun in the name of a larger childhood principle often misunderstood by protective mothers and townspeople, and in doing so he earned the #7 spot on the list you’re reading today.

What does Old Man Parker teach us about being a father? Sometimes fathers’ decisions defy logic and sensibility, yet still provide long-lasting positive impacts on their children.

#6. Bob Cratchit in A Christmas Carol

This man, Cratchit, is the stuff of paternal legend. After accidentally hitting his boss with a snowball on Christmas Eve, Cratchit loses his job. Instead of going home and sulking about it, Cratchit goes to the market and purchases an enormous goose and some chestnuts. He returns home with a feast and doesn’t mention losing his job, instead he celebrates his family and revels in the Spirit of Christmas. Cratchit also carries his disabled son, Tiny Tim Cratchit, around town on his shoulders and makes no fuss about it, despite his son being a rather large fellow in the film version. Cratchit’s goodness eventually has a profound effect on his miserly boss, Scrooge, who finally comes to discover the Christmas Spirit within himself.

What does Bob Cratchit teach us about being a father? Spread the love, for you never know what tomorrow will bring.

#5. Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation

Yes, yes, I am well aware of Griswold’s flaws. Yes, the temper tantrums. Yes, adulterous innuendos. Yes, his occasionally distant relationship to his teenage children. There’s no excuse for any of it, but in my opinion Griswold, played perfectly by Chevy Chase, makes up for it with a surplus on tenacity and enthusiasm when it comes to providing great memories for his family. Nothing goes as planned, but he does everything in his power to unite both sides of his family for the holidays and share in love and cheer. As you probably know, that’s a rather impressive undertaking. Santa-hats off to Griswold for trying.

What does Clark Griswold teach us about being a father? With a little elbow grease and a positive attitude you can eventually reach your Christmas destination.

#4. Jack Campbell in The Family Man

If you’ve seen this movie then you probably remember the opening scene when Jack Campbell (Nick Cage) awakes in a luxurious bed, blasts Italian opera, and dances around his NYC penthouse while getting ready for work. The first time I saw this movie, that scene made me think: “I don’t care what this movie is supposed to be about, I just want to be rich and powerful like that man.”

However, the story continues and we see the love story that could have existed between Campbell and his ex-girlfriend, who is played by Tea Leone. There are kids, holiday parties, tire stores, in-laws, home videos, a loving wife, and everything else that contrasts Campbell’s life in the big city. By the end of the movie, when Jack wakes up back in his penthouse, all alone, there’s a major sense of loss. Jack feels it too, and he decides to drop everything and go create the life he was meant to lead, with his one true love. He’s a great character that struggles with vanity and greed but ultimately discovers something bigger and becomes a better man, a family man!

What does Jack Campbell teach us about being a father? The love you experience within a family is more valuable than any amount of money, power, or prestige.

#3. George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life

George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) is the iconic Christmas father, not counting the big red man himself. This movie takes its time to ensure that you are deeply touched by its message. It gets me every time, right in the heart. The majority of the movie emphasizes that life didn’t turn out the way George planned. He never wanted to take over the family business; he never wanted to stay in his hometown; he never wanted to settle down, not before he saw the world at least. But that’s what happened, and then it continued to get worse when he lost all of his money and suddenly faced a prison sentence on Christmas Eve for financial reasons outside of his control.

George screams at his wife and children, who think he’s gone mad, and then he makes off into the night to get drunk and possibly commit suicide, but an angel arrives and shows him what the world would look like if George Bailey had never been born. It’s the ultimate dose of perspective, and when George returns to reality he’s ready to embrace all of the blessings that life has given him, in spite of the obstacles. The townspeople come together and bail him out of financial trouble and voila, it’s a happy ending!

What does George Bailey teach us about being a father? The world needs you, just as much as you need the world.

#2. General Waverly, aka “The Old Man,” in White Christmas

In White Christmas General Waverly is an Army General who, after being dismissed from duty as the result of a leg injury, opens a lodge in Vermont. When two of his soldiers discover their paternal General struggling to make end’s meet in Vermont without any snow, thus without any winter tourism, they decide to step in and bring their famous song-and-dance act to his small hotel. Although the story hints at the General’s greatness, it’s not through his actions that we understand his character—although he exudes strength, grace, and love—it’s through the love that his soldiers feel for him. “We ate and then he ate. We slept and then he slept,” Bing Crosby’s character says, describing how the General always put others before himself.

In the beginning of the film, the General’s entire military outfit honored his departure from service by singing the song, “We’ll follow the old man wherever he wants to go!” Unlike many of the other Christmas fathers, General Waverly isn’t a “father in development,” but instead, he’s more like the light at the end of the rainbow.

What does General Waverly teach us about being a father? Here’s a quote right from the horse’s mouth: “If there was one thing I learned in the Army it was to be positive, especially if you don’t know what you’re talking about!”

#1. Herr Drosselmeyer in The Nutcracker

Herr Drosselmeyer is the most admirable father figure from any Christmas story. I can hear some of you scoffing at the possible upset taking place, but I assure you that this decision underwent the most brutal of scrutiny. Please suspend your retort and hear me out.

If you’ve seen The Nutcracker, then you’ll remember this character as the man typically wearing a cape, top-hat, and an eye-patch, dancing about rather mysteriously while presenting the children with gifts. The preceding Christmas fathers are great, strong, stoic, kind, blah blah blah, but Drosselmeyer is magic. To put this into perspective, if you take General Waverly and flash forward after a few successful seasons at the Vermont lodge, with no financial stress, he could potentially be magical like Drosselmeyer, but he’s not there yet.

Here are three things you should know about this character: 1. He’s Clara’s godfather, so he actually made the decision to create this magical experience and is not necessarily bound by blood; 2. In the original Russian story, Drosselmeyer is a local councilman, magician, and toymaker—a stupendous roster of talents for any man; 3. Whatever this character does in preparation for the Christmas party—I don’t care if he’s just returned from a spa retreat—the enthusiasm and joy he brings to the children is exquisite and unmatched by any other fatherly Christmas character.

What does Herr Drosselmeyer teach us about being a father? It’s important to live a life that inspires you, because if you’re inspired then you can share passion with those around you.


Image: Flickr/pds209

About Griffin Goins

Griffin Goins has written for Tri-County Tribute, FLAUNT Magazine, The Landing, Wimpole Street Writers. He currently writes for Pasadena Weekly. He studied journalism at the University of Oregon.


  1. Theorema Egregium says:

    As a sidenote, I always find it strange how “father figure” is a common term and concept, while “mother figure” is not. I guess the perception behind that is that (“real”) fathers and father figures are more or less interchangable, while mothers are somehow more irreplacable. Or am I completely on the wrong track here?

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