The First Christmas: The Story of the First Christmas Snow
(Rankin Bass Productions, 1975)
Run time: 22 minutes
I talked about wanting this lesser-known Rankin Bass special on DVD last year but decided it deserved to be recognized on its own. It originally premiered on NBC and then was later aired on CBS before being released on VHS. The last (only?) VHS release was in 1993. While the official title is The First Christmas: The Story of the First Christmas Snow, it is sometimes referred to simply as The First Christmas (as evidenced by the title card and VHS box art).
For the last few years ABC Family has been airing it as a part of their 25 Days of Christmas but I have read that this year it is not on the schedule at all. It STILL has not been released on DVD so if you want to watch this special nowadays you’ll either have to track down a VHS copy or download it somewhere (I have NO CLUE how you would go about doing that). I have seen it on YouTube though. Warner Brothers still owns the rights to this special so you’d think they would’ve thrown it in as a bonus with some of the other RB specials they release year after year. At the very least they could give us the benefit of selling it at the Warner Archives site where every DVD is made to order. They gave us Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos for Pete’s sake! We can’t get The First Christmas?
As for the special itself it is narrated by and featuring Angela Lansbury (as Sister Catherine and she sings a nice version of “White Christmas”). And The First Christmas isn’t about Baby Jesus as you might think. Instead, the special centers around a young shepherd boy, Lucas, who was involved in a lightening storm that caused him to go blind and the nuns who take him in.
The abbey that the nuns live at is putting on a Christmas pageant and Lucas is cast as one of the angels, despite his eyesight. Lucas has never seen snow and Sister Catherine, having grown up in the mountains, tries to describe it to him (the story takes place near a sea, where it never snows). During the course of the pageant, snow begins to fall and then another miracle occurs when the boy’s eyesight returns.
It’s a good tale but not the usual peppy, colorful Rankin Bass effort that we’ve come to expect from the Frosty, Santa or Rudolph specials. Still, I recommend it for anyone that enjoys the other Rankin Bass stop-motion specials.