Christmas Eve on Sesame Street
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The opening features the inhabitants of Sesame Street enjoying an ice skating party. Big Bird has trouble skating, but a child gives him a hand, and he ends up skating very well. Bert falls victim to the antics of Ernie, Cookie Monster and Count von Count as they play ice hockey with one of his shoes, clown around while barrel jumping (the Count counts the barrels, Ernie cheats by lifting his left foot over them, and Cookie tries to jump only to land on and destroy them), play a practical joke on him, and make him very dizzy in a game of Crack the Whip. After the skating party, the characters head home to Sesame Street performing the song "True Blue Miracle." Then, the story diverges into three principal plotlines.
In the main plot, Oscar the Grouch tells Big Bird and his friend Patty (a girl around age seven) that there will be no Christmas presents if Santa Claus is unable to go down narrow chimneys. Distraught, once they return to Sesame Street, Big Bird and Patty enlist the help of Kermit and Grover to ask children how Santa does it. Their responses vary. Big Bird even tries to experiment by having Mr. Snuffleupagus play Santa Claus entering a pretend chimney, but still does not find the answer. Patty tries to comfort him, but fails. He winds up trying to stay up all night on the brownstone's roof, watching for Santa Claus, but falls asleep while the residents of Sesame Street become very worried looking for him. During the search, Maria confronts Oscar for upsetting Big Bird. He says he was only teasing Big Bird and agrees to search for him. Back on the roof, at one point, sleighbells and hoofbeats are heard, and a person's shadow falls over the dozing Big Bird. He is startled awake, but sees nothing unusual.
Meanwhile, Bert and Ernie want to give each other Christmas presents, but have no money. Bert trades away his prized paper clip collection to buy a pink soap dish for Ernie's Rubber Duckie, but Ernie has bartered Rubber Duckie to get Bert an empty cigar box for the paper clips. Mr. Hooper, the store owner, realizes what is happening by the look on their faces. That night Ernie and Bert give their gifts to each other, but they don't want to admit to each other how they traded their possessions. Just before they can confess to each other, Mr. Hooper arrives and gives both characters their treasured possessions back as presents while also reminding the audience that although, being Jewish, he does not celebrate Christmas, he still understands the spirit of the holidays. This story is a retelling of the O. Henry story "The Gift of the Magi".
While all this is going on, Cookie Monster tries to write a letter to Santa Claus and request cookies for Christmas. However, as he talks to himself about the many different kinds of cookies he would like to get or what he might get, he gets hungrier and hungrier, and ends up absentmindedly devouring the instruments he is trying to use: the pencil, his finished letter with the typewriter, and a telephone in turn. With the phone ringing inside his belly, he finally catches on to the problem. At Gordon and Susan Robinson's apartment, he laments that he was unable to contact Santa. Gordon reminds him that he might get what he wants - if he leaves a plate of cookies for Santa, leaving Cookie Monster to look devastatingly at the audience.
At the end of the special, when Big Bird comes down from the roof to warm up, Gordon and Susan make sure he stays. They comfort him by showing that there were indeed presents brought, but having Big Bird back for Christmas is more important. When Big Bird expresses dismay that he did not figure out how Santa got down the chimney, Gordon responds, "Do you remember what Oscar told you?" Big Bird recalls that Oscar told him that, if Santa couldn't get down the chimney, no one would get any presents. Gordon asks Big Bird, "Well, look around you, Big Bird. Does it look like no one's getting any presents?" Big Bird looks at the pile of presents under the tree and sputters, "But it's a miracle!" Big Bird again expresses concern that he does not know how Santa made it down the chimney. Gordon queries Big Bird, "Well, why do you want to know, Big Bird?" Big Bird answers, "It's important." To that, Gordon says, "No Big Bird, that's not what's important. What's important is, we lost you tonight. And we were all very worried about you. But now you're here . . . and we're all together for Christmas . . . " He finishes by singing a line from the earlier-performed song, "True Blue Miracle:" " . . . and if that isn't a true blue miracle, I don't know what one is."
At that moment, Oscar stops by, "I hear the turkey's back." Susan invites him to come in, and Oscar tells Big Bird, "Hey, listen, you big canary, I'm glad you're back...'cause I want to ask you a question...how do you think the Easter Bunny can hide all those eggs in one night? " Everyone groans and says, together, "OSCAR!!" Big Bird looks at the audience with a familiar worried expression...
Then, Big Bird and Patty head outside to Sesame Street itself, where someone has set up a large Christmas tree. Big Bird's friends are thrilled to see that he has been found. The special concludes with Susan and Gordon returning to their apartment to find that Cookie Monster has eaten the needles off their Christmas tree. "Scotch Pine delicious, but Douglas Fir give me heartburn!" he laments. Some of the closing funding credits are displayed on a black screen with Cookie Monster's numerous belches heard on the soundtrack.
A variety of Christmas songs help interweave these three plot lines and make the production much more touching, including:
- "Feliz Navidad", by José Feliciano while Big Bird skates with one of the children (preceded and followed by a slow orchestral version of the song).
- "True Blue Miracle", sung during the gang's trip from the skating party back to Sesame Street.
- "Keep Christmas with You", sung in Bob's apartment with Linda leading a group of children in signing the chorus.
- "I Hate Christmas", sung by Oscar the Grouch outside on Sesame Street.
- "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", sung by Bert and Ernie after opening their Christmas gifts to each other.
- "Keep Christmas with You (Reprise)", sung by everyone at the end.
- 1979: Emmy Award for Outstanding Children's Program - Jon Stone (executive producer), Dulcy Singer (producer)
When the special aired on Muppet Matinee's Christmas Special Marathon on Nickelodeon in December 1994, "I Hate Christmas" was cut.
In various re-airings on PBS in the late-1980s, the closing scene with Susan and Gordon finding that Cookie Monster ate most of their Christmas tree was cut.
On video releases since the mid-1990s, the original 1978 Children's Television Workshop logo with Christmas music was cut. The 1995 VHS replaces it with the 1983 CTW opening logo, and DVD releases of the special start without any logos.
When Big Bird and Patty check on Oscar following his ice skating accident, his original line was "Sure. I've been thrown out of better places than that." It was later re-dubbed in post-production (to "Let's go back and do it, again!"), as the original line was deemed too adult-ish. Although Christmas Eve On Sesame Street aired on PBS, it released on VHS in 1987 and 1995, and on DVD in 2002.
- Caroll Spinney as Big Bird/Oscar the Grouch
- Jim Henson as Kermit the Frog/Ernie
- Frank Oz as Cookie Monster/Grover/Bert
- Jerry Nelson as Count von Count/Mr. Snuffleupagus
- Richard Hunt as Oscar (assistant)/Mr. Snuffleupagus (assistant)
- Linda Bove as Linda
- Northern Calloway as David
- Debbie Chen as Patty
- Will Lee as Mr. Hooper
- Loretta Long as Susan Robinson
- Sonia Manzano as Maria
- Bob McGrath as Bob Johnson
- Roscoe Orman as Gordon Robinson
- Alaina Reed as Olivia Robinson
- Jon Stone as voice of Santa Claus over telephone (uncredited)
- Directed by Jon Stone
- Producer: Dulcy Singer
- Written by Jon Stone and Joseph A. Bailey
- "True Blue Miracle" Composed by Carol Hall
- "Keep Christmas With You" and "I Hate Christmas" Composed by Sam Pottle and David Axelrod
- Music by Dick Lieb
- Music Coordinator: Danny Epstein
- Music Assistant: Dave Conner
- Associate Director: Ozzie Alfonso
- Production Supervisor: Robert Braithwaite
- Muppet Designers: Kermit Love, Caroly Wilcox, Donald Sahlin
- Art Director: Alan J. Compton
- Production Stage Manager: Chet O. Brien
- Stage Manager: Emily Squires
- Set Decorator: Nat Mongioi
- Lighting Directors: David M. Clark, Tony DiGirolamo
- Graphic Artist: Gerri Brioso
- Costume Designer: Bill Kellard
- Wardrobe: Grisha Mynova
- Production Assistants: Mercedes Polanco, Sharen Gay, Cathi Rosenberg-Turow
- Technical Advisor: Walt Rauffer
- Technical Director: Ralph Mensch
- Sound Effects: Dick Maitland, Roy Carch
- Audio: Mike Shoskes, Jay Judell
- Executive Producer: Jon Stone
The Christmas Eve on Sesame St. album features several of the songs from the television special, along with narration. It was nominated for a Grammy Award, but lost to In Harmony: A Sesame Street Record.