Ryan Dosier – Of all the Christmas specials produced by Sesame Street in its 43 years, none stands out to me more than 1978’s enduring and endearing classic Christmas Eve on Sesame Street. It has all the best aspects of Sesame Street in the 70s–the Muppets, the humans, the Muppet-kid moments, Mr. Hooper, Kermit–combined with all of the Christmas joy and charm rivaling any and all Christmas specials. The special, written by Jon Stone and Joe Bailey and directed by Jon Stone, is Sesame Street at its greatest. Christmas Eve on Sesame Street is funny, heartwarming, intelligent, beautiful, and you might just learn something.
The main storyline of the special follows Big Bird as he tries to find out how Santa Claus (“who’s built like a dump truck”) gets down the skinny little chimneys. This story is sprung to life by Oscar the Grouch, who puts this burning question in Big Bird’s mind just to be mean. Big Bird and a little girl named Patty set off to figure out how Santa gets down the chimneys before it’s too late and Christmas comes without presents. With the help of Kermit the Frog, Mr. Snuffleupagus, and Grover, Big Bird and Patty do all they can to find out how Santa can get down the chimney.
That main story (the “Street story” of the special, if you will) is supplemented by some other side stories which are equally as charming. First, there’s the entire Sesame gang ice skating with some kids (including some very odd full-body costumes of Ernie, Bert, Count, and Cookie Monster), then Linda teaches the kids how to sign “Keep Christmas With You” to surprise Bob, Cookie Monster tries to write a letter to Santa (but ends up eating the pencil, typewriter, and telephone), and, of course, Bert and Ernie recreate “The Gift of the Magi” with Mr. Hooper, Rubber Duckie, and paper clips.
The music in Christmas Eve on Sesame Street is some of the best penned for the show, period. From the beautiful “True Blue Miracle” that the cast sings on the way home from the ice rink, to the “aww” inducing “Keep Christmas With You,” these original songs are Christmas staples for me every year. There’s also Oscar’s “I Hate Christmas,” the perfectly grouchy carol for the perfectly grouchy grouch. (Plus Mr. Hooper makes the face in the picture at right.) Then of course there’s the perfect rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” sung by Bert and Ernie. I will always assert that the song has never been performed better than it was by Jim Henson and Frank Oz for this special.
In my opinion, it’s incredibly hard to top this special in terms of charm, beauty, humor, and fun. Christmas Eve on Sesame Street hits every note and hits it perfectly. Big Bird’s undying quest to get Santa down the chimney is the perfect example of the Bird’s dedication. Kermit’s brief role is charming and funny… “Let’s look at this from another angle” cracks me up every time. Then there’s Grover talking to the kids about how Santa does it and his reactions to their responses is classic Grover cuteness. Bert and Ernie steal the show, Cookie Monster eats everything (right down to the Christmas tree), the human cast are delightful as always, and Oscar shows he actually has a heart (at least for a minute). Honestly, the only low point for me is the odd full-body ice skating Muppets at the beginning. They just look weird… but it was the 70s, so it’s forgiven.
So anyway… you should really watch this special this (and every) Christmas. It deserves a spot in your holiday special rotation alongside The Muppet Christmas Carol, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, and whatever other Muppet Christmas specials you watch every December.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, firstname.lastname@example.org