Into the Santaverse

A long time ago in a land with only four television networks, when the calendar rolled past November children would listen with eager anticipation for the sound of Santa Claus’ arrival.

No, I don’t mean sleigh bells. I mean the percussion and horns that announced the beginning of a CBS Special Presentation. Whenever its cadence filled the living room, all activity stopped for the next thirty to sixty minutes.

During the first several decades of their existence, Christmas specials were, for their intended audience of pre-teens, very special indeed. They aired once and only once a year, and with no VCRs or DVRs or streaming or rerun-happy cable channels, if you weren’t in the right place at the right time, you were out of luck until the next December, sidelined while your classmates debated whether the Abominable Snow Monster would beat the Winter Warlock in a fight. 

Sixty years after the first animated Christmas special (Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, originally airing in 1962), the genre is as much of a holiday staple in the United States as Black Friday sales or Mariah Carey songs, and almost as ubiquitous. 

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