Once a Year

Once a Year

In Christmas Comes But Once A Year, a cartoon short released in 1936, a group of young orphans awake on Christmas morning. Irrepressibly, they sing and dance past a very sad tree, heading straight for a row of stockings stretched by popgun, bear, tricycle, football. A riot of rare joy seems sure to ensueโ€”until the secondhand toys theyโ€™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 childrenโ€™s sobs and investigating the cause, he makes the rather impulsive decision to climb through a window and raid the orphanageโ€™s kitchen, using his rubber-hose arms and peerless ingenuity to Frankenstein everyday objects into Christmas toys and contraptions. He makes a washboard sled, a feather duster wind-up bird, a cookware banjo, a sewing machine popcorn garlander, then rigs himself a Santa costume, distributes the new toys, smooths the stairs into a sledding hill and turns a stand of umbrellas into a glowing, twirling Christmas tree where the children can finally forget their wounds.

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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