‘Christmas Eve on Sesame Street’ is a wonderful, nostalgic joy

I love Sesame Street and I believe it’s the greatest show for children. Christmas Eve on Sesame Street is the 1978 holiday special. Big Bird, the soulful and heart-breakingly neurotic giant canary is having a great time with his pals ice skating, but his fun is short-lived because Sesame Street’s resident curmudgeon, Oscar the Grouch infects Big Bird’s joy by questioning the existence of Santa. He asks Big Bird how Santa manages to get down the chimney, being that he’s so fat and he’s got a bag full of presents. Of course, Big Bird immediately worries and starts to investigates. While Big Bird is sleuthing the truth of Santa, Bert and Ernie are trying to figure out what to get each other. Anyone who has that certain someone in his/her life, will know the difficulty of thinking up an ideal present.

Because this is Sesame Street from the 1970s, the action isn’t interrupted by blasts of short, dynamic cartoons with excited colors and graphics. Instead, viewers are expected to follow the story lines, which are allowed to progress at a slower pace. For younger ones – especially now, the action may be a bit too slow, but older viewers – especially ones who have grown up with 80s Sesame Street, the speed is just right.

The beauty of Sesame Street is that the messages of love, hope, education, and friendship were imparted in such a skillful and subtle way, without the cumbersome baggage of “education.” Kids can model good behavior and see characters – of all colors, races, and species – be friends with each other, and love each other, celebrating the differences. In Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, these messages are augmented with the lesson of generosity – especially in the case of Bert and Ernie – both of whom who trade their prized possessions (Bert his beloved paperclip collection and Ernie his favorite rubber ducky) so that they can get each other great gifts: perceptive readers will recognize O. Henry’s tale “The Gift of the Magi.” The payoff when the best friends’ sacrifices are revealed is capped off with a three-hanky rendition of the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

The main plot – that of Big Bird’s worry of Santa Claus’s ability to slip down a chimney – is strong in that the stakes are high, and there is an age-appropriate tension that needs resolving. Tiny tykes are interviewed, all of whom give charming hypotheses on the question of how Santa gets the presents and his considerable girth down a chimney. None of these answers seem acceptable to Big Bird, who is intent to crack the mystery. After various experiments and interviews, Big Bird plants himself on a snowy roof, hoping to catch Santa Claus in the act of sliding down a chimney. His absence makes all of the folks on the street worry, and they organize a search party to find Big Bird.

Watching Christmas Eve on Sesame Street will definitely make one’s heart warm with a fond affection for a beautiful show. Longtime Sesame Street fans will also find it poignant to see cast members who have since passed including Will Lee as the lovely shop owner, Mr. Hooper; Northern Calloway as the hip and cool David; and Alaina Reed Hall as Olivia. And this special is Sesame Street before the tsunami of Elmo, so the adorable and goofy red monster isn’t featured. But many recognizable, if younger, faces appear including Gordon (Roscoe Orman), Maria (Sonia Manzano), and Bob (Bob McGrath). Sesame Street boasted one of the first deaf characters, Linda (Linda Bove), who also shines. Kids will also see some perennial puppet favorites like Kermit, Cookie Monster, Barkley, Mr. Snuffleupagus, and Count von Count. And the songs are beautifully written, the highlight being the touching “Keep Christmas with You” and the hilarious “I Hate Christmas” (which has been edited out of later airings due to its potentially objectionable nature). Christmas Eve on Sesame Street is a holiday classic that is essential viewing for the preschool set, but is also enjoyable for adults who are still kids at heart.

Click here to buy Christmas Eve on Sesame Street on DVD from amazon.com.

You can also buy Christmas Eve on Sesame Street as part of a special 3-DVD set, Sesame Street: Happy Holidays from Sesame Street! 3 DVD Gift Collection, which also includes Elmo Saves Christmas and Elmo’s World: Happy Holidays

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