Growing up as a child, there was one Christmas tradition I looked forward to and enjoyed the most. It wasn’t the presents – I’ve actually never been all that keen on opening presents – and whilst I do love a Christmas dinner, it wasn’t the food. What I’ve always enjoyed the most is the back-to-back viewing of these two highly entertaining, heartfelt Christmas short films. For me, these little films ARE Christmas.
The first part of this double bill is always Ziggy’s Gift. If you haven’t heard of this little fella before, I don’t blame you. He’s quite an obscure character who originated in newspaper comic strips in the 1960s, before finding relative success as an Emmy award-winning television short in 1982, with this delightful Christmas special.
Ziggy is a loveable mute, who, with the help of his canine companion, looks to spread the love at Christmas by volunteering as a street Santa for charity. Unbeknownst to Ziggy, he’s getting embroiled in a tangle of dishonest Saint Nicks who have been swindling the public and stealing the money for themselves. Along his journey, Ziggy adopts a stray cat, offers a homeless man the clothes off his back, and frees a tribe of doomed turkeys. The most beautiful thing about this character and his Christmas tale however, is his sheer lack of prejudice, his relentless goodwill and selflessness. All he wants to do is make people happy. The message at the heart of this film is clear: the greatest gift you can give at Christmas is love and kindness.
Now, I like to follow up this with Garfield’s Christmas Special. Whilst Ziggy gets me in the mood with his weirdly whimsical ways, Garfield’s role in this double bill is to provide a more classical approach, something more grounded and relatable, whilst remaining fun and festive. As we all know, Garfield isn’t the most enthusiastic of felines, but the melting of his heart on this particular Christmas gathering is truly touching, and I won’t lie, is a guaranteed tear-jerker for me every year. Now you may be thinking “hang on, Garfield makes you cry?” but believe me, there’s one particular scene in this film which makes it humanly impossible to resist welling up.
When Jon drags Garfield to his family home on the farm one Christmas, with the loveably excitable Otie in tow, Garfield wishes for nothing more than to be back in bed rather than being subjected to what he sees as a boring and cringe-worthy family tradition. But he soon forms a strong bond with Jon’s eccentric grandmother and realises there’s more to Christmas than giving and receiving presents – it’s the people behind the presents that really matter.
What you get with this Garfield special is your standard festive family formula – putting up the tree, sitting down for dinner, being too excited and waking up early on the big day, exchanging gifts and being merry. It’s this familiarity and predictability which makes the deeper, emotional kick even more poignant. There’s no denying it makes me sad every time, but it’s a wonderfully warm, happy sad. I’m sure we all have family members who aren’t around anymore, and Christmas is a time when we are likely to feel their absence even more. But the takeaway message from this fat ginger cat is unmistakably clear – make the most of the people you love, celebrate with them, make memories with them, treasure the happy times.
Christmas is fast becoming a time of materialism and consumer craziness, but these little short films take it back to basics and remind us of what is truly important. Indeed, Garfield said it best when he said: “It’s not the giving, or the getting, it’s the loving”.