It starts off like so many other animated specials with a focus on getting, getting, getting. But as the story unfolds and Jon takes Garfield and Odie with him to the farm, we learn that the greedy, fat cat, has a big heart.
Anyone who grew up in the 1980’s is familiar with Garfield. From the newspaper comic strip to the TV show, Garfield is the talking cat whose mouth never moved who made us laugh. The 1987 Christmas special may not be the classic that A Charlie Brown Christmas is, but it still delivers on the Gospel.
As the cartoon opens, Garfield is dreaming that Jon gives him a gift giving machine. Anything Garfield thinks of that he wants, he gets. And you can imagine all that Garfield wants! It sets the stage for what this special, like so many Christmas specials do, will be about – the meaning of Christmas is giving, not getting.
And while that is a central message in this special, there is a bit more. Jon and his brother Doc Boy long for the traditions of Christmas, reminding us that Christmas is a time for family. The traditions remind them of their childhoods and it offers a level of security and comfort.
But, Christmas is not jolly for everyone. While the family engages in family traditions, Grandma sits off to the side, in her rocker, looking out into the dark night. Garfield seems to be the only one who notices that Grandma is a bit disengaged. He goes to her and crawls up in her lap, and she tells him about her deceased husband, whom she loved dearly. When Garfield notices Odie leaving the house, he follows the dog into the barn. Odie is constructing something with wood, wire, a plunger handle, and a hand rake, Garfield discovers a box of old letters.
The letters were old love notes written to Grandma by her husband. Knowing how much Grandma misses him, Garfield wraps them up and gives them to her on Christmas morning. She is beyond grateful for this act of kindness. It is a side of Garfield we do not always get to see. As Garfield says, “It’s not the giving, it’s not the getting, it’s the loving!” And for those who are lonely or grieving, loving means more than the giving or the getting.