Walt Kelly *loved* Christmas. I'm not sure when he started his series on baseball, but I do know that for the last 15 years of the strip he ran strips on three specific themes: baseball, Veterans Day, and Christmas. Last week we talked about the very first POGO Christmas in 1949. This week and next we are looking at the first nationally syndicated POGO Christmas, from 1950.
In 1950 Christmas Day was a Monday. So leading up to the holiday, some newspapers did not print on either Christmas Day or Christmas Eve. I will reprint the Sunday strip from 1950 next week, but the actual Christmas strip was anti-climactic; it had Pogo telling Albert to get up and wish the people "Merry Christmas" but Albert says, "Them ol newspapers don't even print on Christmas" and goes back to bed.
So the Christmas strips themselves were not all that exciting, but the strips leading up to the day were specifically noteworthy because Walt Kelly hit on both of the themes he would hit every year: that true feelings of the season beat out crass commercialism every time.
Click on the strips below to enlarge to readable size.
In the first strip Little Coon Chile and Beauregard are talking about the natural beauty of Christmas trees, and a subtle dig about cutting them down to make a temporary decoration.
In the second strip, 12-22-50, we have actual history occurring in front of our eyes: the actual first-time ever debut appearance of the POGO classic Christmas carol, "Deck Us All in Boston Charlie." Appropriately, the characters argue over the lyrics they are singing, although in this case it's about "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and not "Boston Charlie" itself.
I don't think there is any better satire on the commercialism of Christmas then "Deck Us All..." Here we have characters singing a song with no meaning and then fighting with each other about how much more meaningless they can be! It's significant that Kelly never took satirical aim at any actual religious carols; in fact, that leads us to the last strip of the week....
Here we have the debut of the Kelly go-to Carol, "Here We Come A-Wasailing." I have seen this referenced in POGO half a dozen times, usually by Porky (the most sensitive character in the swamp) or by the entire cast. This is a pretty obvious satirical hit on Howland Owl, who thinks he knows what Christmas is all about. Well, he does, really, but he keeps forgetting, probably like most of us.
Continued next week!