About Christmas TV History

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Flying Nun Christmas (1967)

The Christmas episode of The Flying Nun is available in first season DVD release.

With the hundreds of hours of new holiday programming generated each November and December, it's so easy to forget about the classics.  Sometimes we can lose track of our Christmas spirit unless we actively incorporate the past into the present.  How long has it been since you've seen The Flying Nun holiday episode entitled "Wailing in a Winter Wonderland?"

The aged Sister Olaf is not strong enough to return to Norway.  The other sisters fear this may be her last Christmas.

In the first season episode, Sister Bertrille (played by Sally Field) pulls Sister Olaf's name from the grab bag in a holiday gift exchange between the nuns.  The elderly Sister Olaf is originally from Norway and has been living and working in Puerto Rico for many years.  Sister Olaf's holiday wish this year is for a white Christmas--an impossible dream since she's unable to leave the islands.  But Sister Bertrille is determined to make Sister Olaf happy.  After speaking with the man in charge at the weather bureau in San Juan, Sister Bertrille gets the idea to seed the clouds above the convent with dry ice.  Using her special gift of flight, Sister Bertrille speculates that maybe she can create a miraculous white Christmas after all.

If you're familiar with this series, you know Sister Bertrille frequently explains that her ability to fly is just a matter of simple physics.  I guess causing it to snow when it's sunny and eighty degrees must also be a simple explanation of science?!

Sister Olaf (left) is played by actress Celia Lovsky, and Sister Jacqueline (right) is played by Marge Redmon.

On Christmas Eve, Sister Bertrille takes flight and distributes pellets of dry ice throughout the clouds high above the convent.  Sure enough, Sister Olaf sees the snow falling from the sky surrounding the convent and the senior sister is moved by emotion.  Sister Bertrille's good will also has an unintended consequence--the winds carry her further than the convent and she ends up causing a brief snow storm over the city of San Juan as well.

In addition to pleasing Sister Olaf, the snow also brings smiles to children's faces at the San Tanco convent.

However, the tourists in the island's hotels feel their tropical destination has been spoiled by snow!

Though the children of Puerto Rico seem to enjoy the unusual treat, the tourists who have come to the islands to escape wintry weather begin leaving in droves.  Business-owner Carlos Ramirez suspects his friend Sister Bertrille may have something to do with this most unusual event and he confronts her with the harsh reality of snow in San Juan:  her efforts have ruined business and perhaps even Christmas for the residents of the city.  With the tourists flocking to the airport to leave, none of the residents will be able to earn the money they were counting on to pay for their holiday celebrations.

Sister Bertrille continues to try to make everyone happy. 

The unexpected showers of dollars bring tourists out of the airport and back to the city!

Using her charm, Sister Bertrille convinces Carlos to collect money from the more wealthy business owners for her to distribute emergency funds to the residents of the island, so everyone can still afford a merry Christmas.  Knowing most residents won't accept a handout, Bertrille decides to "distribute" the cash without offending anyone.  Back into the clouds, Sister Bertrille takes flight to hand out the money and offer everyone a second chance to save Christmas.  During a montage of images of Bertrille flying and scattering money from the clouds, viewers can hear the song "I'm So Glad I Can Fly."  Fans of the series may remember that several episodes in the first season offer these musical moments, and a collection of songs including "I'm So Glad I Can Fly" were released on a soundtrack album.

Although "Deck the Halls" is a very popular, traditional carol, I'm surprised the nuns didn't lead the children to sing a more sacred holiday song.

Not found on the soundtrack album is another song from this episode.  In a somewhat brief musical moment, the nuns gather with the children and sing the Christmas carol "Deck the Halls." 

Fun Fact: actress Shelley Morrison plays Sister Sixto on The Flying Nun--and the maid Rosario on Will & Grace.

Did you know the actress who played Sister Sixto from The Flying Nun later went on to play Rosario on the hit sitcom Will & Grace?  The TV series Will & Grace went on to create five holiday episodes featuring story lines that relate to both Hanukkah and Christmas.

Do you enjoy watching classic TV? How often do you watch Christmas episodes made in the 1960s?


  1. Love the Christmas shows of the '50s and '60s. But this is one I've never seen.

  2. I'm crushed that they never made a Gidget holiday episode. There is so much potential for fun storylines--Moondoggie comes home from college over Christmas break, LaRue asks for an expensive gift, Gidget's dad wants the young teen home on Christmas Eve, the gang throws a wild Christmas beach party, Santa reads Gidget's diary, special guest star Frankie Avalon sings "Santa Claus is Coming to Town"... I could go on and on. It's a missed opportunity. Oh well.