I Love Christmas Specials!

I love Christmas shows! I always have. When I was a little girl, I could hardly wait for “Christmas specials” to come on, and when they were over, I was sad. Back then, we couldn’t just record them and watch them whenever we wanted. If they came on at 7:30 one night and we didn’t get home in time, it was just tough luck till the next year. But times have changed! We can set our DVRs to watch what we want when we want…and we can even watch some things On Demand! I’m ready to watch!

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I love both versions, the old cartoon, and the 2000 live-action movie. I love everything about both movies, including the music, but I really love the liv-action movie. The sets and costumes are glorious. The characters are well-defined. And the story is golden, as it is based on the Dr. Seuss book. I could watch it several times a year. Jim Carrey is amazing as The Grinch. It comes on Thursday, December 2, on Freeform at 8:20pm. Set your DVR or tune in!
  • Frosty the Snowman. This animated Christmas special was made in 1969 by Rankin/Bass, the producers of lots of holiday specials back then. It was one of my favorites as a child, and it’s still one of my favorites. Anyone who has seen it wants a snowman to come to life in their neighborhood! See it Saturday, December 4, on Freeform, at 7:10pm, followed by my very favorite…
  • Ruldolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Produced in 1964, this stop-motion Christmas special has always been my personal favorite. I’ve written before about how watching this show transports me back in time, even at the ripe old age of 54. When I watch it, I feel the same way I felt as a little girl, lying in my pajamas on the floor of the family den, in front of our giant Zenith console TV. It comes on Saturday, December 4, on Freeform, at 7:45pm, right after Frosty the Snowman.
  • Love, Actually. Apparently, there is some debate about whether this movie is a holiday movie or not, but it counts in my book. This romantic drama follows nine intertwined stories of love. I love it; I had not seen it till a year or two ago, but it sucked me right in. Watch it or record it at 12:30pm on Tuesday, December 14, on Freeform.
  • Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town. Another of my childhood favorites, this one was produced in 1970 as a stop-motion TV special…another by Rankin/Bass. Narrated by Fred Astaire, this one follows the life of Kris Kringle, the man who becomes Santa Claus. It has lots of fun characters, including the frightening Burgermeister and Winter Warlock, but the story is lovely. Anyone who has seen it can still sing Put One Foot in Front of the Other, one of the songs sung by Kris Kringle and Winter Warlock. I loved it and looked forward to it as a kid every year. My mother used it as motivation for us to get ready for bed extra early. See it or record it Tuesday, December 21, at 1:00pm.
  • The Year Without a Santa Claus. This oft-forgotten stop-motion television special from 1974 is one of my favorites. In fact, my whole fifth grade class loved it so much that we produced a performance for the whole school. It features iconic characters like Heat Miser, Snow Miser, and of course, Santa Claus. It’s narrated by Shirley Booth, an actress who won the triple crown of acting: an Academy Award, two Emmy awards, and three Tony Awards, but I remember her as the title character in the sitcom, Hazel, which I watched in re-runs as a child. I can only find one airing of this special, on December 3, at 12:15am on AMC. With that time slot, you know it’s not the most popular Christmas special…but I promise it’s worth watching. You can also rent it on Amazon Prime.
  • A Christmas Story. This movie about Ralphie wanting a Red Rider BB Gun for Christmas was produced in 1983 and has lots of memorable scenes. It has become one of my personal favorites, and I have the leg lamp to prove it! With so many memorable scenes, it’s hard to pick just one part I love…the Bumpus dogs, the leg lamp (Fra-gi-le!), the flat tire, the soap in the mouth, the tongue on the flagpole, the mean Santa, the bunny suit, the BB gun…it has become a classic. See it for 24 hours on Christmas Day on TBS, or you can watch it on Amazon Prime!
  • Elf. This movie, starring Will Ferrell, quickly became a favorite in households across the country. It’s cute. It’s quirky. It’s fun. See it on December 9 on Starz at 9:00pm. Or for a more fun experience, see it in local theaters on December 11 as a Sing and Cheer Along experience on the big screen! Check local Regal theaters. I’ll be seeing it at Regal Stonecrest in Charlotte at 1:00pm.
  • Miracle on 34th Street. I mean the original, which was released in 1947 and stars Natalie Wood and Maureen O’Hara. It won three Academy Awards and has become a classic…and a movie I never want to miss. You can see it on HBO Max or Hulu, or you can rent it on Amazon Prime. If you’ve never seen it, you need to sit down and watch it to get into the real spirit of the holiday.
  • It’s a Wonderful Life. When I was a teenager, I forced my whole family to sit down and watch this classic. My dad was not happy that it was on during a basketball game, but he humored me, and it became his very favorite Christmas movie. My mother and I always watched Christmas classics together, and this one was at the top of her list too. Watch it on Amazon Prime anytime for free with your Prime membership.
  • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. This one is a little more bawdy…it is National Lampoon, after all, but it’s hilarious! No one loves the Griswold family and their crazy lives more than I do! Come on, Chevy Chase is brilliant in this movie! See it on AMC or record it Thursday, December 2, at 8:00pm.
  • Holiday Inn. My mother and I discovered this one late one night in the 1980s. Made in 1942, this musical stars Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, so you know there’s good singing and dancing. In fact, there’s a song in the movie about how each will win a woman’s heart with his singing or dancing. The plot? An inn in Connecticut becomes a nightclub for 15 holiday nights out of the year. The song, White Christmas, was first introduced in this film and won and Oscar. See it on Amazon Prime.
  • The Polar Express. This one is a favorite for lots of people, and that’s why I’m listing it. It’s not one of my favorites. I think it’s a little creepy…don’t give me flack for that. It’s dark, and the story is weird to me. But hey…to each his own. If you want to see it, check it out or record it on TNT on December 2, at 1:30pm.

The holidays are a fun time for television! You can get as nostalgic as you want…and I plan to be pretty darn nostalgic this year. In fact, I’m going to try to get my daughter to watch some of these movies with me this year, since she goes off to college in the fall.

***And I promise the Stocking Stuffers post will be published December 2!***

We Survived the Elf

We survived the elf.

Our daughter is 17. When she was a little girl…not sure how old, maybe six or seven…”the elf” appeared at our house. You know…the elf who appears the day after Thanksgiving and stays till Santa takes him/her home with him on Christmas Eve? That elf.

“It will be fun,” my friends said, and they got elves too.

And honestly, it was fun.

For those who are not familiar with The Elf on the Shelf, I will get you up to speed. Parents of small children purchase the elf and pretend it magically appears the day after Thanksgiving…sent by Santa to watch the children and report back nightly to the North Pole. The kids are not allowed to touch the elf, because he will lose his magic. He “magically” flies back to the North Pole every night while the kids are asleep to report to Santa, and when he returns, he lands in a different spot in the house…sometimes doing something mischievous or bringing a small gift. But the big deal is that every morning, he will be somewhere different when the kids wake up, so they have to look for him in the house. At first, it’s a lot of fun trying to come up with new hiding places and new fun ideas…till you forget one night.

Imagine this: kid wakes up and walks downstairs to find the elf hasn’t moved from where he was the day before. The kid is horrified that his elf hasn’t moved and questions the parents about the authenticity of the story behind the elf. Parents have to think on their feet. I came up with this: Oh, honey, it was so foggy last night! The elf couldn’t go back to the North Pole in dense fog! Too dangerous! I’m sure he will go back tonight!

Fast forward to about 2am the next day when I woke up and realized I hadn’t moved the elf again. My pulse rate quickened, and I jumped out of bed to try to hurry up and quietly move the elf…yep, 2am. Don’t even ask how long it took me to go back to sleep.

These things happened all the time at our house. I would forget to move the damn elf and have to come up with another excuse. Here’s a list in case you need it for a future elf fail:

  • There’s the first excuse: the fog was too dense. (LIE)
  • It stormed during the night, but you (kid) didn’t hear it. (LIE)
  • Air traffic had planes backed up in the Charlotte area, so it was too dangerous for him to try to get out past all those planes. (LIE)
  • He must think this hiding place is extra special. (LIE)
  • I think he fell asleep, because he was so tired from flying back and forth the last few nights. (LIE)

Seriously, even little kids will question those lame excuses, but they got me through the situation.

But having to hide one elf wasn’t enough. People gave her elves as gifts! At first, she questioned how people could just give them as gifts…she thought they magically appeared, so I had to explain…after we put him on the shelf the first night, he will get his magic during the night and fly back and forth to the North Pole. But that meant I had more than one elf to move and hide creatively.

Oh, it got more complicated. Our young child started writing notes to her various elves with questions. “Do you have a boyfriend?” “Do you have a girlfriend?” “What is your favorite food?” What is your favorite drink?” “Do you have a pet?” “Who is your best friend?” Oh, the questions went on and on, and she expected answers to every question the next morning. So, as a good mom, I had to sit down and come up with a different handwriting for each elf before I went to bed at night…and I had to remember which elf had which handwriting! Insanity…but yes, a small child would notice a discrepancy in the handwriting. Not kidding…

And to make things more complicated, she heard the elves brought gifts to some children, so of course, there had to be gifts. I went to Target and stocked up on every candy and cheap trinket I could find.

The elves had to be mischievous too. They spilled sugar or flour everywhere. They hid in candy bowls. They went ziplining between the banisters on the stair balcony. They wrote words with toothpaste. They even “came in like a wrecking ball.” I know there are some people who think I shouldn’t be proud of that one…but I’m proud of that one. One elf was sitting on an aluminum foil wrecking ball hung by yarn from our oven door…Miley Cyrus-style. And embarrassingly, our daughter knew exactly what it was. Don’t judge.

One year, at about Thanksgiving, before any elves had arrived for the season, my daughter came running into the kitchen, where I was cooking, with an elf in her hand! She had found it in my nightstand drawer and was confused. “Mommy? Look what I found in your drawer?” I’m good. I’m really good. Without batting an eye, I exclaimed, “He’s here! It’s magic! He knew you were going to look in that drawer tonight! He’s magic!” She bought it…hook, line, and sinker.

But the first year, when we had just one elf, heartbreak struck when we had our daughter’s bedroom painted. We bagged up all her “babies,” the stuffed animals she had collected over her lifetime and put them in the garage for “safe keeping” till the room was finished. No big deal…except, somehow, the bag got thrown away. The heartbreak was real when we discovered it. The tears! She was heartbroken, but I was too…so many memories. I had no idea how some of the “babies” would ever be replaced, but fortunately, I had photos of most of them. I got on eBay that night and started searching…and purchasing. I went anywhere and everywhere I could online to find replacements that night. I know…silly…but right then, it was important. And fortunately, I even had duplicates of a couple of special ones hidden away. So that night, after our daughter fell asleep, I got one of the duplicates from a trunk in the attic and propped it up with her elf for her to find the next morning.

When our daughter woke up and came downstairs the next morning…all puffy-eyed from crying so much before bed…she walked around looking for her elf. He was sitting on the sofa in the living room…with the duplicate rag doll that was identical to something that had been accidentally thrown away. When she found them, her face lit up…and she actually cried tears of joy! And so did I. Eventually, most of the babies were replaced by the elf over the course of the next couple of weeks. She really believed in her elf after that!

We were thankful we had the elf that first year, even though I woke up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night numerous times when I realized I hadn’t moved the elf. His ability to make those “babies” reappear earned him a special place in my heart. And it earned him a special place in our daughter’s heart too.

He was so special, in fact, that after opening gifts and having family lunch on Christmas Day, our daughter just didn’t seem herself. I sat her down and asked if something was wrong. Was she disappointed with her Christmas gifts? And she broke down in tears! She explained to me that no, she wasn’t disappointed with her gifts; she was sad her elf had gone back with Santa!

And you know what I did. I broke every elf rule. I comforted her for a while, and then I went into the kitchen and had a word with my husband, explaining to him that I needed him to go get the elf out of my nightstand drawer when I gave him the cue…and he needed to place it on the dining room table. Oh, I was thinking on the fly. I went back into the living room and told our daughter…so sweet…that since it was still Christmas Day, she could make a Christmas wish, and it might come true. Maybe she should make a wish that he would come back? I got a candle and told her to close her eyes and make a wish, then blow out the candle…close her eyes again and count to 20…slowly. While she did all that, my husband was quietly retrieving the elf and placing it in the dining room. We were breaking all the rules, but who wants to have a desperately unhappy child on Christmas Day?!?! I know…it could have been a valuable teaching moment…whatever. When she opened her eyes, I told her to see if her wish had come true. When she found that elf in the dining room, you’d have thought she had found Santa himself! We had more tears…of joy. And because it was after Christmas, we let her hold that damn elf for the rest of the day. I think he might have even slept in her bed that night. But I told her he could only stay for one more month, and he would likely stay in one place the whole time.

Whew! That was long ago. Go ahead…I get 30 lashes with a wet noodle for breaking every elf rule, but desperate times call for desperate measures. And really…was she harmed psychologically by any of it? No. Does she still believe in the elf at 17? No. In fact, a couple of years ago, a neighbor/friend posted a photo of her child’s elf that had accidentally melted when it was placed too close to a lamp. She put out a desperate plea to see if someone had an elf that looked like it. Guess who did?!?! We did! I asked my daughter if I could give it to them, and she was thrilled to get to save the day! I called my friend and said, “Come get it! It’s yours!” If you have an elf and hate it, just know you’ll get some good memories out of it. One day, you’ll look back on it fondly. And if you need some elf ideas, here are a few pics of some things we did back in the day…