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Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire

Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire


“There’s only one fat guy that brings us presents, and his name isn’t Santa.” – Bart Simpson

1989’s “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” was on many levels a milestone. It was the introduction of the iconic animated family created by Matt Groening to America, it was the introduction of what would be an influential animated sitcom format for over twenty years, and it was introduction of The Simpsons to a chubby six year old boy named Felix, who’d form a twenty four year love for the Simpsons, and their fellow town folks at their town of Springfield. I remember watching “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” the night after I got back from visiting my grandparents for Christmas.

I sat and watched, laughing constantly at the antics of this unusual family, and rooted for their father Homer to succeed at getting his children gifts for Christmas. Sure, he was loud, rough around the edges, and kind of dumb, but he really loved his family. That’s one of the reasons why “The Simpsons” has remained so prevalent in pop culture. Despite the brilliant writing, and goofy characters, the show has always had a big heart underneath every episode of the series, and “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” is not afraid to be heartfelt.


As many know, The Simpsons began life as short segments on “The Tracey Ullman Show,” and then–after the show was cancelled–they were transformed in to their own series with creator Matt Groening at the helm. Technically the very first episode of the series (despite not being the pilot), “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” took the very unique step of endearing us to the Simpsons family, before making us laugh. “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” begins on a down to Earth and comical note, as Homer and Marge suffer through a Christmas pageant at Springfield Elementary. This gives us a clear idea of the characters, especially young Bart Simpson, as he sings “Jingle Bells” in his own satirical verses “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells…”

Little did the writers know kids would be imitating this song for many years to come. Heck, in my elementary school, we sang it almost non-stop once Christmas rolled around every year. The special props up many future character arcs, with Bart being bratty, and Lisa being unconventional. During the gallery of various nationalities’ Santa, she plays a South Seas’ Santa, performing a tribal dance, and of course, Maggie watches with her trusty pacifier. Surely, the episode is filled with laughs, and gags that would become recurring jokes for years (including Homer’s obnoxious sister in laws, and his rivalry with his Christian neighbor Flanders), but it’s also a very sweet first look at the Springfield family. The Simpsons are about to have the perfect Christmas, as Homer is preparing the Christmas decorations, and is anxiously awaiting the Christmas bonus from his boss Mr. Burns at the power plant he works in.


Sadly, Homer discovers that he will not be receiving his bonus for the year, and now has to rely on the family’s emergency money for gifts for the children. Just his luck, his bratty son Bart stops off at the mall tattoo parlor to one he wants for the holidays. When Marge discovers it, she has to spend the money on removing the tattoo from Bart’s arm. The sad dilemma is that Homer is relying on the Emergency money, and doesn’t know Marge spent it on Bart; as well Marge is now relying on Homer’s bonus, and has no idea that he didn’t receive the bonus for the year.

“Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” is the unconventional tale centering on the holidays, and sets its sights on the inherent bad luck the family suffers day in and day out. Homer, though envious and petty in his rivalry with neighbor Flanders, still feels like a disappointment, and scrambles to earn money for the holiday celebrations. From there, Homer has to suffer through a training course to become the local Mall’s new Santa, and has to endure dozens of obnoxious kids for the sake of claiming his pay. In one instance, he even eats a donut off of a child’s hand, after spending many hours working. After Bart pulls a prank on Homer (unaware he’s a mall Santa) he’s let in on Homer’s desperate attempts to make his family happy for the holidays.


“The Simpsons” has always had something of a religious undertone from the very beginning, and “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” really does end as a tale about Homer, a perpetual loser who finds solace in another loser. The other loser of course being Santa’s Little Helper. This episode marks the first appearance of Bart’s future best friend, a losing greyhound who jumps in to the Homer’s arm for safety, and finds a home among five damaged but loving characters. “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” is much in the spirit of “The Grinch that Stole Christmas,” where a materialistic brood discover that material goods matters nothing as long as you have family. Though they don’t have much during Christmas, the Simpsons find the joy in being with one another, and that in and of itself is a great gift.

– Felix Vasquez Jr.

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