On the fifth day of Christmas, TMP brings to you… the Cunninghams and their pal Fonz, too! That’s right, folks, we’re taking a trip back to the ’50s — by way of the ’70s — and visiting one of the holiday-themed episodes of the long-running sitcom Happy Days. I grew up on re-runs of this series and continue to watch them, so I’ve got a real soft spot for it.
The Happy Days gang brought several holiday episodes to the small screen, including a season two episode taking place mostly on Christmas Eve, called “Guess Who’s Coming to Christmas.” The series having aired for the first time in January of 1974, Happy Days was in its second season by December of 1974, offering the first opportunity for a special Christmas episode.
Mr. Cunningham wants nothing more than a “nice, quiet Christmas Eve,” a calm holiday celebration “strictly for the family.”
The Fonz tells Richie about his big Christmas plans, which involve leaving town and having a huge feast with his extended family. In reality, his big plan is to hang out at the garage where he works and eat a sandwich for dinner.
Luckily, the Cunninghams run into some car trouble and have to make a last-minute Christmas Eve visit to the garage. When Richie realizes that his pal doesn’t have any family to spend the holidays with, the family tries to find a way to include the Fonz in their festivities.
In addition to a heartwarming storyline about our favorite leather-clad perma-teen and his acceptance into the Cunningham family, this episode features an appearance by the mysterious, disappearing elder Cunningham brother, Chuck!
It’s a sweet episode with a very appropriate message for the holiday season. Mr. C sees Christmas as a family time, but gives in to inviting the Fonz into his home when the family convinces him that it should be a time of “good will toward men.” If you’ve got a pleasant family, spending time with them at the holidays can be wonderful, but the season should also be a time to help and spread love to others.
There are plenty of festive decorations to put the viewer in the holiday spirit, at the Cunningham house and of course at Arnold’s, which is decked out in simple but delightful holiday flair: a few strands of tinsel here, a “Season’s Greetings” banner and a Santa Claus there.
The most infectiously Christmas-y part of the episode, though, is the Fonz himself. Once invited to take part in the Cunningham Christmas, his enthusiasm shoots sky-high. He’s elated to take part in every little thing, excitedly volunteering to read “The Night Before Christmas” to the family, roast chestnuts in the fireplace, and fix the lights on the tree.
In gratitude, the Fonz delivers a before-dinner Christmas prayer as only he could, simply saying, “Hey, God? Thanks.”
Mr. Cunningham gets his cheerful, family-centric Christmas Eve… just with an extra “family member.” In opening their home to their friend, the Cunninghams remind us not only that the holiday season is a time of giving, but that blood relation isn’t the only definition of “family” — or the only family to be thankful for.