It’s that time of year again when I miss the soaps that are no longer with us the most. As I decorate and wait for my family to arrive for our annual visit, I think back to many Christmases when I found comforts in soaps and when the soaps were very much a part of the family celebrations.
I’ve watched just about every soaps over the years and I always loved Christmas on the soaps. When I think of Christmas and the soaps I think of Days of Our Lives, Another World, General Hospital, All My Children, Guiding Light, As The World Turns, Young & The Restless, and more. These soaps played an important role in my life and each of them gave me special Christmas memories and in many respects, each gave me a tradition that I carry with me even today.
One of my earliest memories of soaps at Christmas time was watching Days of Our Lives with my grandmother in the 1970’s. Each year, we would bake cooking and decorate the house, all while watching the Horton family prepare for their Christmas activities. I remember the Horton tradition of decorating their tree with bulbs that had the names of each family member. This tradition is one that carries forward to today, and it is one that stays with me. As Alice Horton always explained, the bulbs were a way to have the entire family present, even if the actual person could not be in Salem, or if they had passed and were no longer with us. As I grew into adulthood, I borrowed a variation of this tradition for my own tree. I don’t have bulbs with the names of family members, but I make sure to buy dated ornaments each year as a reminder of what that particular Christmas meant to me and my parents. Each year, as I decorate the tree, every ornament has a memory and a meaning attached to it, and each time I view them, I am transported back to a special time, and I always think of Alice Horton and the tradition she started.
As I entered my teenage years I quickly discovered that time honored soap Christmas tradition of bringing hope when things seemed most hopeless. This was always the case with lovers who had been torn apart for whatever reason, somehow, they always found themselves in the same place at the same time to remember what they mean to each other and to give hope to the viewer and signal that they would soon find their way back to each other. One my of favorite Christmas soap moments was watching Jenny and Greg on “All My Children” in the early 1980’s. The pair had overcome their different socio-economic backgrounds to find love, only to be broken up by the meddling of others. Somehow, though, at Christmas, they found themselves in the same place and the magic of Christmas let them, and the viewers, know that they needed to be back together, and soon! I had the same a feeling almost a decade later when “Guiding Light” reunited Phillip Spaulding with his long lost and believed dead love, Beth Raines. With the help of Phillip’s guardian “Nick” who somehow only showed up at Christmas time, the two lovers found each other again and celebrated their very own Christmas miracle.
I’ve written before of how I always had the soaps on in the background while I was decorating our family tree and I thought of that this week as I prepared my tree for the arrival of my parents for Christmas. As I hung the lights and ornaments, my mind immediately went back to those many Christmases when I would start decorating around noon and continue on through the afternoon as “Young & The Restless,” “Bold & The Beautiful,” “As The World Turns” and finally “Guiding Light” played on the television. By 4:00 PM, the tree would be finished, the house decorated, and another soap-inspired Christmas in my memory.
Christmas, sadly, can also be a time of stress and sadness, if you are thinking of lost love or family that is no longer with us. In those situations, there is nothing better than curling up with a warm cup of hot chocolate, some comfort food and the soaps. Many sop writers realize that there are viewers struggle through adversity and they always craft storylines around the holidays that center on finding hope in hopeless situations. No soap does this better than “Young & The Restless.” Each holiday season for the past several years, that soap has presented an episode that focuses on one character and the struggles they face. Over the hour, that character hits rock bottom and with the guidance of a stranger, they reach the end of the episode, not with their problems solved, but with hope that everything will work out over time. That theme speaks to so many during the holidays and it has spoken to me many times. The episode that stays with me most is the one that centered on heroine Nicki Newman. Nicki has battled alcoholism for years and as she found herself alone at Christmas and involved in an alcohol fueled car accident on her way to her daughter’s wedding, she encountered a stranger who explained what life would be like for her loved ones without her in their lives. In the end, she discovered that the stranger was her long dead mother, manifested as her guardian angel.
Many dismiss the soap opera genre, but when done well, the soaps are inspirational, and I for one have been inspired, comforted and uplifted by the soaps year after year. I can’t imagine a Christmas without the soaps and I hope there will never be a holiday season when I can’t turn the television on and share my Christmas with my soap families. That is why we must work hard to keep our soaps on the air, and fight to get our old soaps back.
Share some of your favorite soap Christmas memories, I know you have some.