I’m writing this on Thanksgiving Eve, so apologies if I seem a little distracted. Based on the Sharpie notes scrawled on my arm, today I gotta shop for 80 mushrooms, stuff 80 mushrooms, wash three loads of clothes, pick up relatives from the airport, shave for the first time in weeks and then decide which of my seemingly identical black shirts has enough give to sustain the 37 pounds of garbage I plan to eat tomorrow.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Here’s the latest edition of Classic Christmas Commercials, featuring old TV spots that I’ve rescued from shoddy home-recordings of Frosty and Rudolph. May they fill you with holiday spirit.
Wendy’s Smoky Bacon Cheeseburger! (1996)
I just adore the fact that Wendy’s Smoky Bacon Cheeseburger was presented as a “Christmas burger” in 1996. The burger had literally nothing to do with the holiday season (even I can’t connect sautéed onions to Santa), but they really made it seem like that year’s ultimate yuletide thing.
The Smoky Bacon Cheeseburger had limited releases both before and after this, but 1996 was when it got its “moon push.” I mean, you had Dave Thomas yanking burgers out of a gift box large enough to work as a ferret tank, scored by a trumpet-driven instrumental of We Wish You a Merry Christmas. It doesn’t just get you hungry for a cheeseburger; it makes you wanna top your tree with one.
Ronald McDonald Saves Christmas! (1994)
Commercials like this help explain why us older folks have a hard time thinking of McDonald’s as another “big bad corporation.” There’s not one mention of food or restaurants or boiling beef fat. It’s just a sweet little holiday special condensed into thirty seconds.
Birdie worries that they won’t have time to send out holiday cards, but Ronald has a solution. Instead of lame cards, they’ll just fly over the whole fuckin’ world, spreading pixie dust that just happens to look like cordless Christmas lights. By the end of the commercial, the entire planet looks like the Griswold house on 12/25.
I love how Ronald’s approach to all problems involves evaluating sets of circumstances before determining the most impossibly extreme solutions.
While the best McDonald’s giveaways belong to Halloween, Christmastime definitely got their best commercials. In fact, there were so many great ones that even a spot as gorgeous as this is barely mentioned anymore. It may not pack the emotional punch of Ronald helping a kid learn how to skate, but man, it’s pretty.
Nabisco Crackers for the Holidays! (1986)
I inherited most of my food-related traditions from my family, but *I* was the one who insisted on a multitude of Nabisco snack crackers with every holiday spread.
See, my mother was a Ritz loyalist. Ritz was her answer to everything. No matter what cheeses or meats, she was going to serve them with Ritz. If you wanted crackers in your soup… Ritz. If you were feeling nauseous… Ritz. To this day, you will not find less than three boxes of Ritz hiding in her cupboards. It’s morbid to realize that I already know her last word.
I like Ritz just fine, but even as a kid, I knew that appetizer spreads demanded several types of crackers. You ever put a chunk of gouda on a Better Cheddar? A pitted olive on a Wheat Thin? It’s a revelation, my friends.
Every December, I’d tag along on her big preparatory shopping trip, and every December, I’d sneak 2-3 boxes of Something Besides Ritz into her cart. I admit that I ended up eating 50% of those crackers before Christmas Eve, but my heart was in the right place.
Happy Holidays from ABC! (1986)
I’m not sure if it’s still common practice, but the bigger TV networks used to put together these awesomely cheesy spots where you’d get holiday-charged montages from their various sitcoms and dramas, set to songs that made you want to call Grandma and offer to rake her leaves.
This ABC spot from ‘86 is a nice example, but it’s still on the lower-end of what networks did with the concept. Sometimes they’d gather actors from wildly disparate shows and throw ‘em all in a room with a big Christmas tree, as if they were doing promos for giant crossover events that didn’t actually exist.
The Ewok Adventure! (1984)
This is neither a commercial nor something that seems appropriate for a “holiday” list, but I have my reasons!
The Ewok Adventure premiered on Sunday, November 25th, 1984. It essentially acted as the “grand finale” of Thanksgiving weekend — aka the true start of the holiday season.
The made-for-ABC movie doesn’t have the greatest reputation these days, but I still love it, and I was completely over the moon about it as a kid. To me, this was Star Wars 4, full stop. As someone who crawled out of the womb crying for Kenner action figures, The Ewok Adventure was like an early visit from Santa.
I’ve never stopped associating the film with this time of year, probably because I spent a decade watching our old home-recorded tape, stuffed with kid-targeted holiday commercials. Here’s ABC’s intro from its big premiere. Even with the degraded audio, it still revs me up.
Thanks for reading! The Classic Christmas Commercials series dates all the way back to Dino Drac’s early days. Below are links to the three prior editions: