Three Christmas Shows That Children Need To See Yearly
Like countless others, I have always enjoyed this time of year.
Christmas has brought warm feelings and memories for as long as I can remember...
Spending that time in the country with my grandparents, decorating the six-foot tree with ornaments and tinsel coming in a rainbow of colors and dating back years, imbibing on egg nog and snacking on the delicious candies - while avoiding the dreaded fruitcake (the absolute worst thing about Christmas in my view) - and most importantly waking on the morning of December 25th to find a huge pile of goodies under the tree waiting for you.
Man, do I miss those days.
The essential part of Christmas back then - and in lots of ways still is - are the prime time specials that are always shown.
It wasn't Christmas without them in my book - and it still isn't.
Having spent much of my childhood in front of the TV, I saw probably all of the Yuletide shows on the tube, complete with the requisite holiday cheer and carols that came with them.
Three of these productions, however, are those that I feel every family with young offspring needs to make part of their holiday traditions, starting with this classic...
A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS (1965)
I have stated this many times, and will continue to do so until I am in my nineties - provided that I make it that far:
A Charlie Brown Christmas is absolutely, positively and without question the greatest cartoon ever made.
Although I was an obsessive fan of the Peanuts gang as a youngster, I'd feel this way about Charles Schulz's Emmy-winning ode to the holiday if I weren't - this half hour show is that outstanding.
What especially endeared me to this animated special - and still does, as I make it a point to put in my VHS copy every year and watch it - is the way that round headed kid, his blanket-loving friend and that loudmouth crab of a sister, and that beagle are portrayed with realism and intelligence, unlike so many other cartoon characters then and particularly now.
It also teaches a great lesson about what Christmas is all about, how it's much more than having a big tree or tons of glamorous presents.
When Linus, Lucy, Snoopy and everyone else decorated that pathetic twig and made it a more than respectable tree, that summed up the season's true meaning, as well as when Linus recited from the Gospel of St. Luke; it was said to have been the first time that the Bible was quoted in a children's cartoon.
And it was a nice touch to boot.
HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS (1966)
Though it has been years since I saw this Dr. Seuss classic, and have unequivocally no interest in the recent live action version with Jim Carrey, this is still a special that youngsters and their parents ought to see on a yearly basis.
Seuss shows in this production that Christmas is not merely about getting lots of gifts, as the people of Whoville demonstrated when they gathered around their town square singing with joy even after the Scrooge-like Grinch had ripped them off.
The fact that those Whos were still happy about the joy the holiday brought literally enlarged that big green guy's heart and made him see the error of his ways as he brought all of the loot back, the lesson being that it's about the love of Christmas, not material things like presents.
Which is something that everybody needs to remember.
SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN (1970)
I could not fathom writing about Christmas specials that kids ought to see and not mention at least one animated show from Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin, Jr.
Those men made so many holiday productions during the 1960s and 70s that next to the Grinch and Schulz's Peanuts kids it seemed that nothing else was on in the month of December.
Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer and Frosty The Snowman were two of Rankin-Bass's most memorable specials that my Trix-eating generation and I well recall as youngsters.
This stop motion production, in my opinion, is the best one in the bunch because it gives children a sense of being clued in on the origins of that white bearded, red suited guy in a way that seems believable and realistic.
It satisfied kids' natural curiosities, the way that the story detailed how Santa grew up, started delivering toys, going down chimneys, and why he set up shop at the North Pole, as well as telling how Dasher, Dancer, and the rest of their reindeer friends first flew.
I know it satisfied my curiosity as a five and six-year old.
And it didn't hurt to have legends in the special such as Fred Astaire narrating the story and Mickey Rooney playing Santa.
I know that there are many productions that I left out.
People make a yearly ritual out of watching films such as Meet Me In St. Louis, with Judy Garland singing to a young Margaret O' Brien about having herself a Merry Little Christmas, the original Miracle On 34th Street with an eight-year-old Natalie Wood, and the one movie that seems to be on at least twenty times from Thanksgiving to December 25th, Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart.
However, as great as they are, those classics don't seem to capture the imagination of young children the way that the specials that I have mentioned do; I personally remember being bored by those movies as a young-un and wanting to watch Bugs Bunny or some other cartoon.
In other words, those films seem to be more for whole families and older kids, rather than for the youngest members of the family.
Nevertheless, these animated holiday shows will hopefully not only serve as a good memory of your formative years, but also inspire you to pass along the love of them to you own offspring - if you have any.
And I certainly hope that these cartoons - and any other yuletide shows that you and yours may enjoy - help to make your Christmas a merry one.
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