|This 1964, first season Christmas episode is in glorious black-and-white.
We all know Samantha Stephens is a good witch. But I thought I'd start my Countdown to Halloween on a gentle note with this awesome Christmas episode. Not only is this one of my personal favorite Christmas episodes of all time, it's also one of the few episodes where Samantha appears in her witch's outfit. This is the perfect introduction to our month-long journey of exploring Halloween and Christmas cross-over entertainments. Merry Halloween!
|Samantha talks with Michael and decides to ignore the warnings that he's a troubled child.
In this first season episode, "A Vision of Sugar Plums" from 1964, the Stephenses and their neighbors the Kravitzes each host an orphan child to share their holiday. On Christmas Eve, the Kravitzes pick up Tommy while the Stephenses arrive at the orphanage to bring home Michael, played by child actor Billy Mumy. While still at the orphanage, Tommy and Michael get into a fist fight when Michael makes fun of Tommy for believing in Santa Claus.
|Darwood...er, ah, I mean...Darrin plays Santa Claus to help inspire a little Christmas spirit in Michael.
Though the orphanage director, Mrs. Grange, warns Sam and Darrin that Michael may be a troubled little boy and too much to handle at Christmas time, Sam insists that they bring him home. Sam recognizes that the boy's cynicism is rooted in being repeatedly disappointed in life--an unfortunate reality for this orphan. Michael's bitterness has kept him from being adopted though twice he's been offered a home and a family.
Wanting to show him a little holiday spirit, Darrin dresses as Santa Claus and is caught placing gifts under the Christmas tree. But Michael refuses to play along and is unimpressed with their effort.
|Cynical young Michael knows it's Mr. Stephens inside the costume--because there is no Santa Claus.
Sam decides she needs to take drastic action to help Michael. Revealing her true witch identity, Sam offers to fly Michael to the North Pole in order to meet her old friend, Santa Claus. Sam invites Darrin along on their journey when he too is skeptical about meeting the real Santa Claus.
|Samantha reveals her true nature as a witch to Michael.
In flight upon Samantha's broom, the three travelers are spotted by the nosy neighbor, Gladys Kravitz--though her husband Abner insists that she must be seeing flying reindeer in the skies above their home.
|Santa is glad to see his old friend Sam and her guests--but he's in a hurry! This is his busiest night of the year.
At the North Pole, Santa Claus is happy to see his friend Samantha and welcomes her into his workshop. He and the elves are busy getting ready to deliver the toys tonight. But Santa Claus is glad to spend a few minutes talking with Michael, restoring not only his faith in Christmas but his trust in other people--something that doesn't come easily for this young orphan.
|Santa, played by Cecil Kellaway, encourages Michael to believe not only what he sees but what his heart feels.
The next morning, Mrs. Grange comes to the Stephens' home to pick up Michael and introduce him to a couple, the Johnsons, who are once again interested in adopting this little boy. Renewed with hope, Michael puts his best foot forward not only embracing the Christmas spirit but expressing his desire to accept their kindness.
|Mr. Johnson, played by actor Bill Daily, accepts Michael's Christmas gift--a tool set they can use together.
|Who wouldn't want to adopt this little boy?
This Christmas episode is one of my personal favorites for a couple of reasons. I just love the cast: the difficult young boy Michael is played by child actor Billy Mumy--who was everywhere on TV when I was young. From Lost in Space to the Twilight Zone, Mumy was so commonplace on TV that he seems like a friend from my childhood. Because of this familiarity, I still feel a special emotional connection to the episodes he appears in. And, actor Bill Daily arrives in the end wanting to adopt this poor orphan! Daily seems like a super star to me--playing Roger Healey on I Dream of Jeannie and Howard Borden on The Bob Newhart Show. These are two of my favorite TV shows. It always pleases me to see these two guest stars together on this heart-warming Christmas episode.
|Gladys Kravitz spies on Tommy and Michael talking.
Another reason this episode is a favorite is because it's satisfying to see the peeping, interfering neighbor Mrs. Kravitz once again given her due. At the end of the episode, she sees Michael give a gift to Tommy for Christmas--a toy truck he brought back from Santa's workshop at the North Pole. (How sweet is that?) Mrs. Kravitz hears Michael describe how he flew to the North Pole with the witch Samantha on her broomstick--and now Gladys thinks she has finally caught Samantha! Gladys rushes to find Abner so he can hear the conversation between Michael and Tommy.
|Thank goodness no one ever believes Gladys when she insists her neighbor Samantha is actually a witch!
But when Abner asks Tommy what Michael had shared with him, Tommy won't repeat Michael's secret! And, once again Gladys is left looking like an idiot--or worse, she fears she's going crazy!
|Sam's Christmas tree conveniently fits inside her purse!
Besides flying to the North Pole, Samantha demonstrates a little more Christmas magic. In order to save herself a $5 delivery charge, she shrinks a tree she buys at a Christmas tree lot, carries it home inside her purse--and we see her zap it to normal height at home.
One of the most powerful reasons that this episode is one of my personal favorites is that I remember watching it as a child. Though I've seen nearly every Christmas episode ever made, I'm still like most other people and my favorites are the ones I watched when I was young and continue to watch each year because they still bring me joy. Which childhood favorites do you still watch every year? Merry Halloween!