In 1978, Jim Davis created the comic strip Garfield, chronicling the life of a cynical, orange tabby cat of said name, as well as his owner Jon Arbuckle and companion Odie the dog. For over 30 years, Garfield remains the most widely syndicated comic strip of all time, and has spawned a highly successful Saturday morning animated series, two theatrical films, and twelve primetime animated specials. Arguably the best of the animated specials is A Garfield Christmas, which made its television debut on December 21, 1987.




The special opens with Garfield (voiced by the late, great Lorenzo Music) napping in the lavishly decorated Arbuckle home. Jon enters the room and wakes him up announcing it's Christmas morning and asks him if he knows what it means. Garfield replies by saying, "Presents, lots and lots of presents!" Jon then provides him with his breakfast lasagnas and presents him with his gift, a large, mechanical Santa Claus.



Jon:"It's the gift that keeps on giving, Garfield. Here, let me show you. Now watch this. This gift giving machine can read your mind. Whatever you think of it will give you!"




After Garfield has a great time using the machine to excess, not surprisingly, it all turns out to be a dream. To make matters worse, Jon announces that they're going to be spending Christmas with Jon's family on the Arbuckle farm. Garfield is less than enthused.



Garfield:"Why is it every Christmas I get drug out of my warm bed just to see some stupid old relatives? And why is it I always have to go to the stupid old farm? Why can't they come here where my warm bed is? And why...am I whispering?"




Garfield, Jon and Odie arrive at the farm, and we're introduced to Jon's family, Mom, Dad, Grandma and Doc Boy. This is the aspect of the special that really shines, as the characters are well written and appealing, and can be relatable to members of your own family. The standout being Grandma, voiced by Ursula the Sea Witch herself, Pat Carroll.



Grandma:"What's this, Jon? I see you're putting on a little belly. Is that city life making you soft?"

[elbows Jon in the gut]


Grandma:"You're getting soft boy! You need to get more physical. Take me, I do a hundred sit-ups every morning. My belly's hard as a rock. Come on, hit me right here. Give me your best shot."




After Garfield takes a shine to Grandma's blunt and tactless way of speaking, Odie ventures into the barn and begins rummaging around for certain items. He locates a small board and garden fork, and sets them aside. Later, at dinner, after Doc Boy delivers an elaborate blessing, one of my favorite moments occurs when Jon wants some potatoes only to discover the unprecedented levels of variety on the table. I think most people can identify with this scene, as pretty much everyone has at least one relative that goes all out when preparing a holiday dinner.



Jon:"Hey, Mom, pass the potatoes please."
Mom:"Scalloped, whipped, fried, baked or boiled?"
Jon:"Oh, Mom, you always fix too much food."
Mom:"I know, Honey, I know. Now what would you like?"
Jon:"I can't decide. Just give me a piece of pie."
Mom:"Apple, peach, pumpkin, blueberry, cherry or banana cream?"





Later, after performing an upbeat, boogie-woogie version of Oh Christmas Tree on the piano, Grandma and Garfield spend some time together in the rocking chair. She talks about heartfelt memories of her late husband, and how Christmas is the time of year she misses him the most. This is a great scene, as it adds dimension to Grandma's character as well as Garfield's for conveying more compassion.



After everyone has gone to bed, Odie ventures back out into the barn, and Garfield decides to follow him. Odie takes the handle from a toilet plunger and combines it with the garden fork and board into an unusual looking device. He then covers it with a brown paper bag and brings it back to the house. After stumbling and knocking over a box, Garfield discovers an intriguing stack of old letters.




The following morning, after everyone opens their gifts, Garfield hands the stack of letters to Grandma. To her shock, it turns out to all be love letters from Grandpa back from the days when they were first dating. After expressing her gratitude, Odie starts getting excited. He presents Garfield with the device he constructed, and demonstrates it as being a back scratcher. Garfield thanks and hugs Odie, then declares his new-found perspective of the holiday.



Garfield:"All right, you guys. Just permit me one sentimental moment here, will ya? I have something to say. Christmas, it's not the giving, it's not the getting, it's the loving. There, I said it, now get out of here."




A Garfield Christmas has remained one of my all-time favorite Christmas specials. It has great musical numbers, a lot of laughs and a lot of heart. While the special sort of side-steps the true meaning of Christmas, it still delivers a very positive influence for children as well as adults. If you've never seen it, I highly recommend you check it out, it can be found on the DVD Garfield Holiday Celebrations. I hope it'll become a yearly tradition for you to watch it as well.