Christmas Specials Wiki
Christmas Specials Wiki

The First Christmas: The Story of the First Christmas Snow is a critically-acclaimed stop-motion animated Christmas television special produced by Rankin/Bass in 1975, narrated by Angela Lansbury and co-starring Cyril Ritchard. It was the first Christmas special that Jules Bass wrote under the pseudonym "Julien P. Gardner" (he would use that name again for The Little Drummer Boy, Book II and The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus).



Lucas surrounded by the nuns.

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A few weeks before Christmas, a young shepherd named Lucas is struck by lightning while wandering the countryside with his animals, a herd of sheep and a dog named Waggles. A group of kindly nuns named Sister Theresa (the narrator), Sister Jean, and Sister Catherine rescue him, taking him to their abbey nearby. Soon, they and the priest, Father Thomas, learn that he has not only been blinded by the accident, but he is an orphan too. Father Thomas is slightly irritated, but nevertheless, Lucas is allowed to stay at the abbey while he recovers from the accident, and Sister Theresa becomes a mother-figure and mentor to him. She tells him about snow, something neither he nor anyone else at the abbey has ever seen (the village is "much too close to the sea"). He is fascinated and begins to dream of a "white Christmas".

Later on, Father Thomas tells Sister Theresa of his plans to send Lucas to an orphanage after Christmas. Lucas overhears this and is heartbroken. In the meantime, he gets to play an angel in the abbey's Christmas pageant with some other children from the village. There, he meets a girl named Louisa, another one of the angels who immediately befriends him. He shares his dream of seeing snow for the first time with her, as they start to develop feelings for each other.

On Christmas Eve, Lucas realizes that he won't be able to take his sheep and Waggles to the orphanage with him after Christmas. He tells Waggles that he has decided to give them to Sister Theresa as a Christmas present. At the same time, three mischievous boys who are in the pageant with him have been eavesdropping on him and decide to lock the sheep in a shed as a prank. Shortly afterward, though, they get out and run into the wolf-ridden forest nearby, and Lucas sets out to find them. The boys admit to Sister Theresa what they have done before following Lucas into the forest to help him. When they arrive, he has found all of them except Woolly, who has fallen into a deep hole. Lucas and the boys work together to save him, and just in time for the pageant!


Lucas (left) learns he is allowed to stay at the abbey.

At the pageant, after the children sing their song, "The First White Christmas", it begins to snow. Louisa excitedly explains this to Lucas, who is so happy that he cries. Miraculously, Sister Theresa explains, these tears restored his sight, "not just for the moment, but for good".

After the pageant, a small party is held, where Lucas gives Sister Theresa his sheep and Waggles. She is flattered but explains to him that she wouldn't be fit to care for them and invites him to stay and live at the abbey to watch over them instead of going to the orphanage. Even Father Thomas agrees, saying, "I do feel that the best place for a boy with no parents is with people who love him." Lucas is thrilled and remarks that this Christmas has been the "first real, happy Christmas of [his] life".


Broadcast history

The special originally premiered on NBC on December 19, 1975. It later aired on CBS, usually as the last Rankin/Bass special aired for the season. In the 1990s and 2000s, it was then aired as part of ABC Family's annual 25 Days of Christmas event but dropped as a regular part of the lineup in 2011, only briefly returning to the lineup for 2012 and 2015. As of 2022, it currently airs uncut on AMC as part of their annual Best Christmas Ever programming block.


There were two VHS releases of the special, the first one released in 1987 by ABC Video Enterprises through Golden Book Video, and the second one released by Warner Home Video in 1993. Warner later released a Deluxe Edition DVD of the special on October 2, 2012. The DVD was repackaged along with three of Warner's other Rankin/Bass Christmas DVDs in the 4 Kid Favorites: Merry Masterpieces box set, released on October 13, 2015. The special was released again as part of The Complete Rankin/Bass Christmas Collection DVD box set, this time sharing a disc with Jack Frost and The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus; a Blu-ray version of the box set, which marked this special's debut on the format, was released on October 31, 2023.


  • The special's title actually refers to the Christmas pageant the orphans put on Christmas Eve, though it could also refer to the first time Lucas actually experiences snow after his sight returns.
  • The special has been said to take place in Southern France.
  • Arthur Rankin stated in an interview that Irving Berlin, the songwriter of the centerpiece song, "White Christmas", was initially strongly opposed to Rankin/Bass producing the special.


Voice actress/actor Character(s)
Angela Lansbury Sister Theresa
Cyril Ritchard Father Thomas
David Kelley Lucas
Dina Lynn Louisa
Greg Thomas
Sean Manning
Dru Stevens
Trickster Boys
Don Messick Waggles
Iris Rainer Sister Catherine
Joan Gardener Sister Jean
Hilary Momberger Octavia



External links

Rudolph the Red-Nosed ReindeerCricket on the HearthThe Little Drummer BoyFrosty the SnowmanSanta Claus is Comin' to Town • "A Christmas Tree" • 'Twas the Night Before ChristmasThe Year Without a Santa ClausThe First Christmas: The Story of the First Christmas SnowFrosty's Winter WonderlandRudolph's Shiny New YearThe Little Drummer Boy, Book IINestor, the Long-Eared Christmas DonkeyThe Stingiest Man in TownRudolph and Frosty's Christmas in JulyJack FrostPinocchio's ChristmasThe Leprechauns' Christmas GoldThe Life and Adventures of Santa ClausSanta, Baby!