Once a Year

I n Christmas Comes But Once A Year, a cartoon short released in 1936, a group of young orphans awakes on Christmas morning. Irrepressibly, they sing and dance past the saddest tree you’ve ever seen, heading straight for a row of stockings stretched by a popgun, a bear, a tricycle, a football. A riot of rare joy seems sure to ensue—until the secondhand toys they’ve received start falling apart, followed tearfully by the kids. A long-anticipated reprieve has become another cruel blow.

Good thing Professor Grampy is passing by. Hearing the children’s sobs and investigating the cause, he makes the unorthodox decision to climb through a window and raid the orphanage’s kitchen, wielding his rubber-hose arms and peerless ingenuity to Frankenstein everyday objects into Christmas toys and contraptions. He makes a sled from a washboard, a wind-up bird from a feather duster, a banjo from a pan, a popcorn garlander from a sewing machine, then rigs himself a Santa costume, hands out all his inventive new toys, creates an indoor sledding hill and turns a stand full of umbrellas into a glowing, twirling Christmas tree where the children can forget their wounds, if only for one day.

85 years later, as another wave of this pandemic looms, we may be lonelier than hoped. Things we cherish may be falling apart. Disappointments may be hard to set aside. But Christmas comes but once a year, and a day of diversion is just what the professor ordered.

Written by Dan Mims. Image features a still from Christmas Comes But Once A Year (1936).

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Dan has worked for a couple of major media companies, but he likes Daily Nutmeg best. As DN’s editor, he writes, photographs, edits and otherwise shepherds ideas into fully realized feature stories.

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