Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Spirit of the Season

"All over the world they celebrate the birth of that baby, and everybody gets time off from work. Now if that ain't proof that he's the son of God, then nothing is."

Archie (Carroll O'Connor)

The episode of All in the Family that first aired on this night in 1971 — "Christmas Day at the Bunkers'" — was a reminder of the true spirit of the season.

Simply put, Archie made a mistake at the plant where he worked. He sent a work order to London, England instead of London, Ontario, and his Christmas bonus was withheld as a fine. Without it, he was unable to spend a lot on Christmas presents, and he was too embarrassed to admit why he didn't have the money.

Mike (Rob Reiner) and Gloria (Sally Struthers) made jokes about Archie's Christmas gift — a box of his and hers handkerchiefs — which did nothing to improve his mood. He just got more irritable as various household service providers, such as the mailman, hinted at wanting a holiday bonus from Archie.

Things didn't improve when the Jeffersons came over for dinner, and Henry Jefferson (Mel Stewart) was dressed as Santa Claus.

A black Santa didn't exactly go over well with Archie. In fact, it reopened an old argument between Archie and Henry. The original argument had been over whether Jesus had been white or black.

"Jesus was white, and so is Santa Claus," Archie told Henry.

"Yeah, well, when I was a kid," Henry said, "the man filling my stocking was black."

It was Edith (Jean Stapleton) whose charitable spirit sought to soothe Archie. She told him she loved her "Hers" handkerchiefs.

"How did you ever get them to split a box?" she asked in complete innocence.

But Edith was not stupid. It was Edith who put two and two together and figured out why Archie didn't get a Christmas bonus. She understood — and it really didn't matter to Edith. She was one of those people who would say that if she was able to spend the holiday with those she loved, that was what mattered.

Sometimes Edith's good nature annoyed Archie — but on this night it was precisely what he needed. It gave him the courage to observe, at the end, that "I guess this ain't such a bad Christmas, after all."

God bless us every one.