The Secret Life of Melanie O.
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Ho...ho...freakin' Ho

The Christmas season is upon us, now that we've entered the month of December, and unlike the USA, Australia's Christmas TV Specials are next to non-existent. I'm not quite sure why this is. Maybe they don't like spunky reindeer who hang out with dentist elves. Or maybe the people in charge of programming fear that Aussie kids will all want Red Ryder BB guns from Santa.

It's my experience, however, that there are a few Clark Griswolds out there who would appreciate the humour of Christmas Vacation, and kids who'd love to see re-runs of Home Alone. I anticipated this dearth of TV holiday cheer, and so, when I packed up to move out to the land of Christmas in Summer, I made sure to bring my VHS copies of all the Christmas Specials that I love and have watched, religiously, since as long as my parents allowed me to stay up late enough to watch them.

Most of these time-honoured specials are now classics. Why wouldn't any parent want their kid to watch The Grinch Who Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess? The animation style rivals the good Dr's own illustrations, and the late, great Boris Karloff narrates it as only he could have, while Thurl Ravenscroft, the voice of Tony the Tiger, sings the title song.

Next, the earliest special I ever remember watching: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, which actually came out a couple of years before the Blizzard of '66. It actually had already become an annual special before I was old enough to view it. Who wouldn't love Rudolph and his misfit pals, like Hermey the Elf, who wanted to practise dentistry instead of making toys? Trust an elf to know a good career opportunity when he sees one. And of course, Yukon Cornelius and his motley team of sled dogs that consisted of a border collie, poodle, cocker spaniel, a couple of terriers, and the oddball chihuahua. Ol Yukon tamed the Abominable Snowman, with the help of Hermey, but I don't know if he ever struck gold while prospecting at the North Pole. These are questions a kids asks him or herself years later. With Rudolph, there is no closure for Yukon Cornelius - that's why I have to watch it every year and force my husband to watch it too, so that he gets all of the "in" jokes in the movie Elf.

Another classic kids' special is Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown - probably the one animated classic that actually manages to capture the spirit of the season. Watching it, I become nostalgic for my childhood. I used to sing in the school chorus when I was a child, and we'd go caroling in the snow around the neighbourhood, where the old folks would listen politely and then shut the door in our faces after wishing us a "Merry Christmas." The school auditorium and stage seemed huge to us kids. As an adult who returned years later, everything sadly, seemed so much smaller. However, I can thank Charles Schultz for taking me back to my childhood: the school Christmas concert, our church's Advent services and Christmas play, skating on the frozen lake, and even the tacky neighbourhood light displays which I now miss dearly.

There are other kids' specials that I watch every year, as an homage to the animation genre: Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, The Year without a Santa Claus amongst them, but they can't beat the Big Three.

Other movies, that are religiously run on US television over the season, have made their way, one by one, into my film library. They include the first two (and only ones worth seeing) Home Alone movies. I have to remind myself that Macaulay Culkin used to look and act like a normal kid. Some of my Christmas movies are humourous: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation has inspired my husband to decorate our house with lights. He never did that until I came into his life and indoctrinated him. The Ref is sassy, but funny. Who would have believed that the sweet mother in Mary Poppins could become such a bitch in her old age? "Lady, your husband didn't die. He's in hiding!" And Scrooged with Bill Murray is like watching an old Saturday Night Live Christmas Special with a sprinkle of pixie dust from the Ghost of Christmas Present.

Some of them are inspirational in a big nostalgic way. I love A Christmas Carol with Alistair Sim - the one production that truly follows Dickens' story. Then there's It's a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street. I don't think it's any accident that all three of these films are in black and white. They were done in a day when the story and the acting was paramount over special effects and fancy sets. A Christmas Story manages to capture that same sense of nostalgia, even though it was done in the mid '80's. "Ralphie! You get down here right now! And I mean it!" Back then, Moms weren't trying to be their kids' best friends. Moms were Moms: "Besides, you'll shoot your eye out." And Dads were Dads: "@#*&%! *^$#@+~!"

A couple are musicals. Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye tap-tap-tapping their way into White Christmas, and it's become a Christmas Eve tradition to watch Scrooge with Albert Finney. Christmas and music just go together, like Rosemary Clooney and sandwiches.

My husband and I have our favourite mutual choices: The Santa Clause and The Santa Clause 2. Of course, they are favourites for different reasons: him - because he relates to Tim Allen's simian man-humour, and me, because I think Santa is H.O.T.

Some movies aren't really Christmas movies, but are themed around Christmas, like Love Actually and Serendipity. But really, when you think about it, Christmas is one of the best times for showing people that you love them, and bringing cheer into others' lives. It's also the best time of year for being grumpy and miserable, which brings me to my last item:

Not all holiday specials should be remembered. One, in particular, I should probably forget, but it's so bad, it's funny - and charming in its simplistic way. It was repopularized by MST3K and originally aired in 1964, the same year as Rudolph. But instead of giving us the innocence of childhood, kids in 1964 were bombarded by threats from Outer Space and Russians. It was, after all, the beginning of the Space Race. So, here's my homage to Santa Claus Conquers the Martians:

Hooray for Santy Claus!
You spell it S-a-n-t-a-c-l-a-u-s Hooray for Santy Claus!

Hooray for Santy Claus!
Yeah yeah for Santy Claus
He's fat and round, but jumpin' jiminy
He can climb down any chim-neyyyy

When we hear sleigh bells ring
Our hearts go ting-a-ling
'Cause there'll be presents under the tree
Hooray for Santy Claus!

Now all year long at the North Pole
He's busy making toys but he knows
Just what you're doing
so you better be good girls and boys

Hang up that mistletoe
Soon you'll hear ho ho ho
On Christmas day you'll wake up and you'll say
Hooray for Santy Claus!
Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah
Hooray for Santy Claus!

Hang up that misteltoe
soon you'll hear ho ho ho
on Christmas day you'll wake up and you'll say
Hooray for Santy Claus!
S-a-n-t-a-c-l-a-u-s Hooray for Santy Claus!
You spell it S-a-n-t-a-c-l-a-u-s Hooray for Santy Claus!
Hooray for Santy Claus! Hooray for Santy Claus!

Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without a few good tunes, and a few good Specials - even if I have to crank up the old VHS player to watch them. A bit of nostalgia is as good as a Happy Pill.

posted by Melanie O. at 7:33 PM -
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About Me
Name: Melanie O.
Home: Durham, North Carolina, United States
About Me: Female, American health and beauty-conscious professional who has rekindled a childhood love of dolls.
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