by Maria Lagalante Schulz
When I was a kid, I found the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas to be really exciting and full of anticipation. Christmas seemed like it would never, ever get here. One of the things I enjoyed most, right after putting up the Christmas tree, was scouring the TV Guide to make sure we didn’t miss our favorite Christmas specials.
Here are 8 of my all-time favorites:
Santa thinks no one loves him anymore and decides to take a vacation. Mrs. Claus wants to prove him wrong and so she sends out two elves, Jingle and Jangle, who have the combined brainpower of a fist full of snow. They take along a baby reindeer that can’t take this kind of pressure-filled situation just yet, to find some Christmas cheer. Of course, trouble ensues.
Heat Miser and Snow Miser come onstage to sing about the joys of life in the heat vs. a life spent in the cold. I loved these two guys, mainly because I thought they looked like Joey and Paul, and I could see my mother as Mother Nature, demanding that the two of them get along.
Will Santa find Christmas cheer? Is Mrs. Claus going to be responsible for the premature death of a baby reindeer? Does anyone care if Santa doesn’t do his yearly sleigh ride anymore? What do you think?
Charlie Brown goes “in treatment” with his trusted therapist, Lucy Van Pelt (the doctor is in) and discovers that the thing he needs in order to find Christmas spirit is to become director of the Christmas play.
Charlie Brown, I don’t want to burst your bubble, but did you forget that Lucy is the same person who keeps pulling the football away when you try to kick it? Or that Violet tells you to your face that you’re a loser? What makes you think you can direct this group of kids, when even your own dog wants to boo you?
I owe Sally Brown and Lucy for the lines that I still use to this day. First, when Charlie Brown ridicules his sister for asking Santa for cash, she replies, “all I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share.” Later, when Linus asks Lucy to give him one good reason why he has to memorize some lines, she tells him, “I’ll give you five. One, two, three, four, five,” as she makes a fist. How can you not love Lucy?
But really, Lucy, why on earth would you, Violet, and Frieda of the curly hair ever send Charlie Brown out to get a Christmas tree? Do you want him to fail?
These were the existential questions my brothers and I hurled at the television in between dancing as Schroeder played “da-da-da-da-da, duh duh duh duh duh duh duh” and then singing “wooo wooo wooo wooo wooo wooo wooo wooo” during the final scene.
Most of all, I love that Linus tells Charlie Brown what Christmas really means.
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'”
[Linus picks up his blanket and walks back towards Charlie Brown]
“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
Rudolph came of age in the 1960s, when bullies were not only tolerated, they were encouraged. I could feel Rudolph’s pain as he ran off with his little elf friend, Herbie, and his new pal, Yukon Cornelius, to the Land of the Misfit Toys with the Abominable Snowman hot on their heels.
I thought Santa was kind of a creep in this one, and this disturbed me. He was not this way in all of the other cartoons! He was picking on a reindeer because his nose was red! He jilted those poor misfit toys FOR YEARS!
When Santa approaches Rudolph and says, “Rudolph, with your nose so bright/won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?” I always wished the song went like this:
“Then how the reindeer snubbed him.
As he shouted out with glee,
Not on your miserable life, Santa.
I hope you crash into a pine tree!”
But no, Rudolph is always trying to get that rotten Santa’s approval, so all he says is “It would be my honor.”
As Snoopy would’ve said, “boooooo.”
Now here’s the Santa Claus that I knew and loved. I watched him learn his craft with the wise Kringle family. I saw him land Mrs. Claus (who my brothers thought was quite a babe) and bring toys and joy to kids of Sombertown despite the threats sent his way by the Burgher Meister Meister Burgher.
Kris Kringle, a.k.a. Santa Claus thawed out the Winter Warlock’s heart and taught him how to “put one foot in front of the other.” And he busted out all his friends from jail with the Winter Warlock’s magic-corn-eating, flying reindeer.
So how’d he do it? With toys and songs. How else?
“Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot, but the Grinch, who lived just north of Whoville – did not. The Grinch hated Christmas – the whole Christmas season. Now, please don’t ask why; no one quite knows the reason. It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight. Or it could be that his head wasn’t screwed on just right. But I think that the most likely reason of all may have been that his heart was two sizes too small.”
I think the most likely reason the Grinch hated Christmas was that he’d spent a lifetime working in retail. He probably had to work on Thanksgiving, when all the Who’s who weren’t eating their roast beast kept him busy at the Whoville K-Mart. Then, after missing out on Thanksgiving, he almost got trampled to death on Black Friday when he opened the doors to let the screaming hordes in.
Or maybe it really was that his heart was too sizes too small. Personally, I always found the Grinch to be thoroughly amusing in his nasty grinchy-ness. I did work in retail, and there were a million times that I wanted to say “Pooh-pooh to the Whos.” The endless noise, the incessant gaiety, the mob scene mentality…I could totally relate to the Grinch’s dismay.
He loses me, however, when he straps the antlers on his poor dog Max and hits him with the whip. Then, he lies to poor little Cindy Lou Who and takes her tree (and all of the food, so that there’s not even a crumb big enough for a mouse). The song that plays in the background while the Grinch goes wilding through Whoville always cracks me up: You’re a vile one, Mr. Grinch / You have termites in your smile / You have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile / Mr. Gri-inch / Given the choice between the two of you, I’d take the uh… seasick crocodile.”
But then, The Grinch realizes that the Who’s still celebrate even after he stole all of their stuff. Maybe, just maybe, Christmas means a little bit more than that. He’s a changed Grinch! His heart grows three sizes that day—and he brings everything back. And he goes to their feast and carves the roast beast.
Of course, in my version, the Who’s would have arrested him as soon as he rode into town with all of their stuff. But then he and Max wouldn’t have gotten any roast beast…unless the Who’s brought it to him in the Big House.
Not too many people remember this one, but I sure do. My twin brother, Chris, and I saw it the first time it aired. I can still see us sitting there together, in the living room of my parents’ home, back in 1977. We were munching on cookies and watching the special by the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree, and we were mesmerized.
Yes, the storyline bears an uncanny resemblance to Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (bullies make Nestor’s life miserable). Come to think of it, it’s also a lot like Dumbo (big ears, mommy issues).
But here was a Rankin & Bass story that was sweet and sad…and actually featured Mary and Joseph (and oh yeah, the birth of Jesus). Unless your heart is made of stone and you’ve got ice water running through your veins, you can’t help but root for Nestor. Yes, this one made me cry, and no, I didn’t want an alternate ending where Nestor is arrested by Roman soldiers or forced to eat roast beast in the Big House.
I love the freedom the kids have in Frosty the Snowman. Once the kids run out of school (why are they in school on Christmas Eve?), they get together to create a snowman. Luckily, the terrible magician they had in school throws his hat away because he thinks it’s useless. Now, Frosty the Snowman comes to life.
Unfortunately, the thermometer is in the red zone and now Frosty has to get somewhere cold. They decide to get him a ticket to the North Pole, and Frosty says to Karen (the kid who actually made his head, which by her own admission, is the hardest part to make on any snowman):
So off they go, with the crazy Professor Hinkle hot on their heels. He wants his hat back! He will stop at nothing to get it! Even if that means he’s going to essentially kill Frosty in the process.
Good thing for him there’s a hot house in the North Pole. Frosty, whose only real concern is getting Karen home in time for dinner and not having her freeze to death beforehand, makes the tragic mistake of carrying her inside because he’s sure he can get outside before he becomes nothing more than a puddle.
Well, of course Professor Hinkle locks him in there. Wouldn’t you do the same thing if you wanted your hat back?
His rabbit turns state evidence and spills the whole story to Santa Claus, who must’ve wanted some roses for Mrs. Claus so he happened to be in the area. He walks in on Karen, who is adding some tears to the Puddle Formerly Known as Frosty.
Santa Claus: Don’t cry, Karen, Frosty’s not gone for good. You see, he was made out of Christmas snow and Christmas snow can never disappear completely. It sometimes goes away for almost a year at a time and takes the form of spring and summer rain. But you can bet your boots that when a good, jolly December wind kisses it, it will turn into Christmas snow all over again.
Karen: Yes, but… He was my friend.
Santa Claus: Just watch.
And with that, a strong North Pole wind blows into the hot house, transporting Frosty’s puddle remains out the door. And guess what? FROSTY’S BACK IN TOWN!
Luckily, Santa’s able to drop off Karen on the roof of her house while he and Frosty waves goodbye.
I always wondered how she got off the roof…and if her mom was mad that she missed dinner.
Okay, so I was hardly a kid the first time I saw this movie, but it quickly became one of my favorites. One Christmas Eve at the orphanage, Buddy crawls into Santa’s bag and Santa doesn’t realize it until he’s back at the North Pole. So, naturally he gives the baby to his top elf, Papa Elf, who raises Buddy as his son.
Buddy believes he’s an elf, but since he’s about 6 feet tall by the time he’s 10, he starts to thinks something is wrong. When he discovers he is actually not an elf—and horror of horrors, his real Dad is on the naughty list—he sets out to find him. In order to get there, Buddy has to pass through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, and then walk through the Lincoln Tunnel.
Enter James Caan, who is hilarious as Buddy’s long lost Dad. Ed Asner also makes a slightly cranky and totally lovable Santa. And who wouldn’t love Bob Newhart as Papa Elf?
My favorite scene is when Buddy goes to work in the mail room for the first time and he says: “It’s just like Santa’s workshop! Except it smells like mushrooms… and everyone looks like they wanna hurt me…” Soon enough, Buddy’s made a friend with an ex-con, who shares his booze with Buddy, and then Buddy is doing some Russian dance moves on the tables and causing a riot.
Oh yeah, and eventually, by singing and making others happy, he saves Christmas.
What’s not to love?
Christmas Cookie Recipes
The only way to really enjoy these Christmas specials is to have a glass of milk and some cookies while you watch. Here are some of my favorite Christmas cookie recipes:
Chocolate Chip Cookies
So, what’s your favorite Holiday special or cookie recipe? Share it with the rest of us Hungry Lifers.