Christmas in July: puppets, talking snowmen, and a feast of nostalgia 


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If you are anything like me, you are not a “summer person.”  You likely clicked on this article because you are the type who enjoys the cooler months — rainy days and snowstorms provide you comfort, and you would rather watch a movie or read a book than go kayaking on a lake, or (god forbid) go hiking.   

I have always professed to be the “indoorsy” type, but the pressures of enjoying one’s summer never go away, no matter how insistent you are that you really do prefer it. As you get older you have to find more clever ways to dignify your choices and get people off your back when they ask why you haven’t been to an outdoor event yet.  The real answer is simple: It’s because I don’t want to. But most people won’t accept this answer. So, what should I tell them instead?      

Holed up in my bedroom in July, wrapped up in my comforter with the curtains closed and air conditioner turned to a modest 18 degrees, I found myself the perfect “acceptable” summer tradition: Christmas in July.   

The history of Christmas in July is a lot less interesting than the practice itself (by all means go ahead and read the Wikipedia page about it) so let me sum it up for you: It’s mostly an excuse for stores to have sales so you’ll buy things.  

For me, it’s a tradition I started back in high school when I lived in an old house with no central air. To beat the heat, I had to find another way to cool down besides my dusty box fan. That was when I thought of it: Christmas movies

The concept is simple: You grab your old Christmas VHS tapes and DVDs from your parents’ house, you dust off the VCR/DVD player and grab yourself some snacks (extra points for tea or cocoa). Luckily, I bought myself an old tv with a VCR attached for 30 bucks off Facebook Marketplace back in June, so this task was easy.    

The idea is to hide away for a day from the unbearable heat and sunlight outside. A treat just for your “indoorsy” self for getting through weeks of sunburns, mosquito bites, and attending endless outdoor events when you would have preferred to stay inside. 

I don’t know about anyone else’s holiday favourites or traditions, but in my family, it is all about the classic Rankin Bass stop motion tv specials from the 1960s and 70s.  Any activity we do at Christmas includes one of these classic films playing in the background.  Once I actually found the old videotapes and DVDs, away to the tv I flew like a flash! (Get it? From Twas’ the Night Before Christmas? No? It’s fine…).   

Since it’s only twenty more weeks until Christmas, and in the spirit of the Christmas in July season, I thought I might do some mini-reviews by writing out some notes I made as I watched my four favourite specials. 

Remember That Time They Made Burl Ives into a Talking Snowman? Anyway…Here’s Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) 

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer film cover

I feel like this one is everyone’s favourite. I know in my family it’s my mom, dad and sister’s favourites. I am the black sheep. 

This entire special has to be based on a drug trip – I refuse to believe otherwise. 

Why is Santa Claus so cranky and judgmental? RUDOLPH IS DOING HIS BEST, SANTA. 

Okay, hear me out: Is Hermey’s desire to be a dentist a covert metaphor for homosexuality? They sure do hammer home the idea that the other elves are outraged by his dentistry desires and don’t understand it…and he does talk about how he’s a misfit who can’t change who he is…I mean, if it isn’t a metaphor, I think it would certainly make a great one. 

Is Hermey a gay icon? 

Yukon Cornelius is such a Canadian, I don’t care what anyone says.  Put a Tim Horton’s cup in his hand, and he’s every dad yelling at hockey practice on a Saturday morning.  

The crying Misfits sitting in the dark around a campfire is total nightmare fuel — I remember being genuinely afraid for them as a kid – they were so alone in the darkness and feeling forgotten, and then the doll is all “I haven’t got any dreams left to dream!”??  

Good grief people, this is a children’s story!! 

Skinny Santa sure did fatten up fast…I call fake. That tummy is a fake! SANTA IS A LIAR!  

4/5 stars — This special is totally ridiculous, but it is creative, I’ll give them that. Lastly, shoutout to my boy Charlie in the Box — he’s the nicest talking thing in this story.  

5/5 Christmas nostalgia points — It isn’t my personal favourite, but this is probably the most quotable/marketable of the Rankin Bass tv specials to this day – just about everyone has at least seen or heard of it.  

Started At The Bottom *grunt* Now We’re Here… The Little Drummer Boy (1968)  

Cover photo of the 1968 film the Little Drummer Boy

(Since this one is the worst, I will try to keep this short…to spare you.) 

The opening is entirely about people being taxed. Of course, the opening features  

a horrible stereotypical “dummy” character — a cross-eyed boy named Ali wearing a fez…Buckle up, folks.  This one has not aged well.   

I don’t think I actually watched this special until I was about 16, but I remember feeling uncomfortable when I finally did…I’m still uncomfortable.   

The animation is just so clunky!  The puppets look awful and/or downright terrifying, and the story is boring. Also, his parent’s death happens fast, I feel they raced through that quickly, considering how important it is to Aaron’s character development and “hatred for all people.”  

Not enough musical numbers…The Animaniacs did this better. 

In literally every scene there is sand.  The star of this special is the sand.  

Now, Aaron’s shaming the crowd for his parents’ death, as if these people specifically killed them…Little Drummer Boy had better drum himself up some money for therapy sessions, am-I-right? 

Where did Ben Haramed find red paint to draw that creepy smile on Aaron anyway? Was it perhaps in the SAND?? 

Oh look!  There’s baby Jesus! 

3/5 stars — For effort. And the camel named Joshua. I love a goofy-looking camel puppet named Joshua.  

2/5 Christmas nostalgia points — I don’t have childhood memories attached to this one, so it just isn’t as special to me. Plus it takes place in a hot desert, so it isn’t doing its job of keeping me cool for Christmas in July. Also: Stereotypes. I’m getting more snacks… 

“I suppose it all started with the snow…” Frosty the Snowman (1969)  

I was today years old when I realized this one came before Santa Claus is Coming to Town. I feel slightly ashamed of myself not finding this out until my thirties…we are clearly off to a good start. 

“The eggs have turned into…messy, messy, messy!” 

Hocus Pocus the rabbit is the sassiest of rabbits. I APPROVE.   

Professor Hinkle is a magician, right? And a professor…so does that mean…he’s a professor… of magic? *Harry Potter theme plays* 

I like that Frosty is completely fluent in English but can only count to 5. Wait, are they implying that we’re only defined as “alive” if we can count? 

…Why is Karen not wearing any pants? 

“NO MONEY? NO TICKET!!” I feel their pain… 

Anyone else ever wonder if there really are dessert cars on trains that are full of ice cream and frozen Christmas cakes? A girl can dream. 

This is the most accessible of the tv specials, because it’s just about a snowman trying not to melt, and an evil magician chasing him down for his hat. In another universe, this could make a great horror film…actually, can we consider this an adaptation of Cape Fear?? Hinkle does hide under the train… 

Good thing they found that greenhouse full of poinsettias in the middle of nowhere! “But you will melt!” “Just a little! I’ll only stay inside for a few minutes.” JUST KIDDING. 

Here comes the part where we all mourn Frosty’s sad puddle death, just before Santa just opens the door and is immediately brought back to life by the wind. How wholesome is that bait-and-switch?! 

4/5 stars — There’s no puppets in this one, so that’s a bummer.  This one is also a lot shorter than the others, but it’s a classic that definitely made me feel cooled off thanks to all the snow imagery! 

5/5 Christmas nostalgia points — If you weren’t made to sing Frosty the Snowman in grade school at least once, you missed out on humiliation.  

And finally, my absolute favourite: Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970) 

Ahh, the story of Santa…the confusing fever-dream version featuring a lot of anti-German jokes (no really, it’s not subtle…). 

This is so wholesome I could puke.  Look at the dancing Fred Astaire puppet! 

And who doesn’t love the rhyming Kringle family?? Dingle, Wingle, Bingle, Tingle, Zingle…I want to be a Kringle! You may now call me…Lingle Kringle. 

“I’ll call ya Topper!” 

Okay I must point this out: The Burgermeister Meisterburger character is very obviously a play on Hitler…his men wear anachronistic WWI soldier gear, “Herr Burgermeister” clearly replaced whoever the aforementioned King was that the Kringle’s sing about, and instead of the emphasis on hating Jewish people, he just really hates “toys”. Hmmmsure…toys.  

“A kiss a toy is the price you pay!” — not creepy at all, adult Mickey Rooney… 

It’s very possible that I cried watching the Winter Warlock decide to change his life because Kris showed him love… 

“You are obviously a non-conformist, and a rebel! ARREST HIM!!” — yeah, he’s definitely Hitler. 

And here we have Miss Jessica performing THE most 70s-style song, including the symbolic moment she “lets her hair down”, and the animated kaleidoscope tunnel segment where she dances around like she’s at a music festival (when the fifth White Claw hits, am-I-right?). 

“I’m crowded! But at least I’m loved!” Get it, Winter Warlock!   

Magic-feed corn as the reason why reindeer fly is convenient, but…I’ll forgive them. 

The children’s final march through the town with the Postman, talking about how people should take a page from Santa Claus and spread joy and love in life…it’s beautiful…aaaaand I’m crying again. 

5/5 stars — I may be biased on this one, because it is my absolute favourite, but of all the stop motion tv specials I truly do believe this one has the best combination of musical numbers and dancing. Plus, the puppetry is pretty great in this one too.  

5/5 Christmas nostalgia points — Did I mention that it’s my favourite?? I always think about happy memories as a kid at Christmas with this one.  I think because I believed in Santa Claus until I was 12 (don’t laugh), this one holds a special place in my heart. 

There you have it.  Another Christmas in July for the books.  My bedroom felt like a freezer, my tummy was full of snacks, and I was ready for a long winter’s nap. It was just lovely being burrowed in comfy pjs and blankets pretending there was a snowstorm outside, filled with holiday spirit while ignoring the pain of my chafed thighs and blistered feet from activities in the heat.   

I felt rejuvenated and ready to take on another 5 weeks of summer with a smile in my heart. It’s what Santa Claus would want me to do, after all.  

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