About Christmas TV History

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Andy Griffith Show Christmas (1960)

Can you whistle the theme song?

I'm frequently asked which Christmas TV episodes are my personal favorites.  The holiday episode of The Andy Griffith Show is right at the top of my list--I've been watching it all my life and it could be the one Christmas episode I've seen more times than any other.  It's also one that I still look forward to seeing each year.  It's certainly one of the best Christmas stories that TV has to offer.

Mr. Weaver holds the evidence: a jug filled with spirits made by Sam to make his Christmas merrier.

In the 1960 episode “The Christmas Story,” Sheriff Taylor and his deputy Barney Fife know that they can’t leave prisoners unattended so they send home all the men sitting in their jail and plan on spending Christmas with their family.  But local businessman Ben Weaver insists that Andy lock up a moonshiner, Sam, a Mayberry resident that isn’t buying Weaver’s store’s liquor but illegally making his own.

Not wanting to split up a family over Christmas, Andy shows Ben Weaver that he's arrested Sam's wife and childen on accessory charges.

Now the Taylor family will move their Christmas celebration--dinner, tree and all--to the jailhouse.

Unable to convince the curmudgeonly Weaver to change his mind, Andy and Barney move their Christmas celebration to the jail so the moonshiner won’t be alone--even inviting Sam’s family to join him there.  Aunt Bea brings in a Christmas dinner and the adults begin singing “Deck the Halls” as they decorate the Christmas tree.  But Ben Weaver is still angry about the prisoner’s “privileges” as the holiday party begins.

Outside standing on a fruit crate, Ben peers through the barred window, watching the holiday festivities.

Though it takes a little while for Andy to catch on, the lonely Weaver commits several petty crimes, forcing the sheriff to arrest Weaver so he can enjoy a traditional family Christmas with Andy, Barney, Aunt Bea, Opie and Sam and his family.  After he’s arrested, Ben reveals he’s remembered to bring Christmas presents for everyone.

Once you've seen it, you'll never forget seeing Barney as Santa Claus.

Andy and Ellie singing "Away in a Manger" at the Christmas party.

This classic heartwarming episode includes a wonderful scene with Andy and his girlfriend Ellie, played by Elinor Donahue, singing “Away in a Manger” while Andy plays his guitar.  These souls are so filled with the Christmas spirit, it’s no wonder Ben Weaver wanted to do whatever it took to join them at their party.

Turns out, Ben Weaver has more than enough Christmas spirits.

Do you remember how this episode concludes?  In the past, I've seen this ending edited out during re-runs in order for TV stations to cram in more commercials.  At the end of the evening, Andy sends Sam and his wife and children home due to a lack of evidence.  Turns out Ben Weaver was having so much fun at the Christmas party, he drank the contents of the jug and is now sleeping it off in a nearby jail cell. 

What's the one Christmas TV episode you've probably seen more times than any other?


  1. I have to admit I have never seen this episode! I will have to check out the currently airing run of the show on TV Land and make sure I DVR this one!

  2. It's just such a lovely episode. Could watch it over and over!

  3. Joe--it's old-school good :) I can't believe you haven't seen it!? You'll love it.

  4. I just added it to my picks at locatetv.com!

  5. This is one of the best Classic Christmas episodes and I think it is the only Christmas episode that The Andy Griffith show made. The moonshiner Sam Muggins played by Sam Edwards, his wife played by Margeret Kelly and the daughter played by Joy Ellison return in season 1 episode 28 "Andy Forcloses" where they play Lester Scobey, Helen Scobey and Mary Scobey. Joy Ellison also plays Mary Wiggins in season 1 episode 16 "The Beauty Contest". I am loving your blog, Joanna. Christmas episodes are my favorites of all the classic tv.

    1. Thanks Robin. Christmas episodes are my favorite too!

  6. Did Eleanor Donahue actually sing the song, Away in the Manger, or was she lip syncing?

    1. She and Andy were both lip syncing but to their own voices. Eleanor was to nervous to sing it so Andy and her went to the recording studio the night before . He got her to relax first by humming it and when she felt confident enough to sing to just start singing. They sang the song and Andy said, See you in the morning. Eleanor said, Aren't we going to record it?" Andy said "They did "