With there being only 30 days left until Christmas (Don’t mean to scare you, but it’s true!) and many people beginning their Christmas Shopping today at various Black Friday sales, I thought I’d take this opportunity to look back on a Christmas Classic : Christmas Eve on Sesame Street. I recently got the chance to re-watch this 1978 special and it was just as I remembered it.
Our story begins at a skating party (one of the first and few times where we would see almost the entire cast of both people and muppets not only all together, but also at another location). They take advantage of the change in scenery, replacing the regular puppets with trained skaters wearing full sized suits of the characters. This brings an odd feeling to the beginning as Ernie, Bert, The Count, and Cookie Monster are all heights with the main actors. They attempt cover this by having the humans shot separately in medium close ups, but it’s pretty obvious in the wide shots. After a 5 minute skating sequence set to Feliz Navidad, we get into our main plot as the group leave the ice rink and head back to Seasame Street. Big Bird and his little friend Patty begin to discuss their excitement of Santa’s pending arrival, and as per usual, this doesn’t sit right with Oscar the Grouch. Oscar decides to mess with Big Bird by suggesting “How does Santa get the toys to everyone? – What if the chimney is too small?, What if you don’t have a chimney? What if all the entrances to your home are locked?” This leaves Big Bird unsettled as he returns home and hopes to get to the bottom of this. In one of the more hilarious segments of the special, he enlists Kermit the Frog and Grover to ask children how they think Santa gets the toys into their homes. Although entertaining answers are provided, none help put Big Bird’s mind at ease. So the bird goes to the roof and waits for Santa. Back on the ground, the rest of the Sesame Street gang become worried when they can’t find his 8-foot frame anywhere. So the search is on, during which Maria (one of the apartment building’s human inhabitants) tells off Oscar for being such a jerk and messing with Big Bird. Meanwhile Big Bird is still up on the roof and can see all the commotion below, not registering that it has anything to do with him. Eventually, Big Bird gets cold and tired and decides to take a rest in Gordon and Susan’s Apartment. It’s then that Gordon and Susan (more humans) reassure him that presents will be given to all children as Santa has the power to do it, but what’s more important is that he is safe and with the group as family and friends are the most important things on this holiday.
There are also a few subplots that run through the special as well. Ernie and Bert go through their own version of the “Gift of the Magi” Story with Bert giving up his paperclip collection to get Ernie a soap dish for his rubber ducky and Ernie trading said rubber ducky for a cigar box to house Bert’s paperclip collection. Fortunately for them, there is a happy ending as Mr. Hooper (the street’s only Jewish resident and only store owner as well) pays them a visit. Also, Cookie Monster attempts to contact Santa through various means to ask for cookies, but ends up eating all of his attempts in the process. He even devours a Christmas Tree at one point. I think the guy who decided that Cookie Monster should start eating vegetables was watching this special when he came up with the idea.
Finally, of couse, as with all Muppet endeavors, there’s the singing. There is a hand full of songs in this special, most notably I Hate Christmas, performed by Oscar (who else) and Keep Christmas with You, which is performed twice in the show. The first time it appears, Bob (another one of those damn humans) sings it to Linda (his hearing impaired friend or girlfriend – I could never remember as a kid and I’m not sure now) as he and a group of children sign the song’s lyrics for her. The songs come in at the right time and don’t feel too overbearing, which is the main mistake of a lot of Christmas specials.
Overall, Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, although dated in appearance, still holds up today as both entertaining and as a great program to show to show to your kids to illustrate the true meaning of the Christmas season. Also, I am amazed that even with only a few years of Sesame Street under their belts at the time, Henson and Company sure knew how to make you care about these characters. Big Bird and Ernie and Bert’s stories are so simplistic yet pack a pretty emotional punch that is missing in most children’s programing today. I can’t believe I have gone so long without watching this special again. I now plan to keep it in my rotation of Christmas movies for seasons to come. Be sure to pick up Christmas Eve on Sesame Street on DVD today and make it part of your holiday traditions.
And if you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!