So, without more ado...
MUSIC LINKS (I've skipped all the instrumentals)
"All Because of Mr. Santa Claus" by Hal David & John Cacavas (Bruton Music / APM Music)
plays when Sam and Dean first enter Santa's Village I cannot find this one - sorry!
"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" by Rosemary Clooney plays at the end, when Sam gives Dean his Christmas present.
We start the episode with the MoW - a year ago (I'm still trying to figure out why they had to start it a year ago). Grandpa is visiting his grand kids in Seattle at Christmas and doing his annual Santa Claus routine when he is rudely interrupted by thumping on the roof and noises in the chimney.
He looks into the fireplace (never do that) and gets pulled up and away along with some gross bone cracking and screaming noises. When the little boy calls out to Santa, Santa's boot with blood on it falls down the fireplace. The facial expressions of these kids is so interesting. They are so shocked and curious almost at what is going on that they don't make a sound! We next see Sam and Dean in the present time in Michigan, checking in with a family who just lost their father in the same way.
MOM: Agents, the police said my husband might have been kidnapped.
DEAN: Could be.
MOM: Then why haven't the kidnappers called, or demanded a ransom? It's three days till Christmas. What am I supposed to tell our daughter?
SAM: We're very sorry.
Sam is researching possible monsters at the motel room when Dean comes back with food.
DEAN: So, was I right? Is it the serial-killing chimney sweep?
SAM: Yep. It's, uh, it’s actually Dick Van Dyke.
Sam suggesting the actor playing the chimney sweep from Mary Poppins and Dean not getting the reference - or maybe just pretending not to? It's like Sam thinks Dean should know. The joke didn't quite go down as planned unfortunately.
Dean tells Sam that although the witnesses did not see the "kidnapped" individual going up the chimney, they did hear thumping on the roof. And I just had to include this unimportant fact because well,
You know how crazy I am about those shrugs ♡
Then, Sam tells Dean he has an idea that might sound crazy.
DEAN: What could you possibly say that sounds crazy to me?
Sam suggests an evil Santa twin, Black Santa, who can be seen in lore.
DEAN: Yeah, that is crazy.
Dean says, anyway there is no Santa so how can there be a brother? And Sam answers I know, you are the one that told me. And Sam closes his computer with a sad sigh, and Dean looks a bit guilty. On a first watch we think, awww he's feeling bad for having told Sam that there is no Santa, but on a rewatch we can also conclude that they are both remembering that night when Sam found out everything. What dad does, and what the world is REALLY. Forgive me for going down memory lane here and remembering that last scene of Something Wicked, when Sam says,"I wish I could have that kind of innocence," and Dean says, "If it means anything, sometimes I wish you could too."... Because I am suspecting that is exactly what they are thinking now.
Dean thinks a little more and says, well, on second thought, the idea of a anti-claus is not as crazy as it sounds, since both men were seen at the same Santa's Village before they died.
We next see them at the rather rundown village and Dean suddenly suggests that they should have Christmas this year. Like when they were little. Sam's like, nope. Don't have any good memories of Christmas. Dean says, hey we had some great Christmas'.
DEAN: No, we’ll get a tree, a little Boston market, just like when we were little.
SAM: Dean, those weren’t exactly Hallmark memories for me, you know.
DEAN: What are you talking about? We had some great Christmases.
SAM: Whose childhood are you talking about?
DEAN: Oh, come on, Sam.
SAM: No! Just… no.
DEAN: All right, Grinch.
So we either have a large perception gap between the boys or Dean is just making light of their sad childhood. Let's talk about that again later aye? Just a side not here - interesting that Dean doesn't know Mary Poppins and a famous actor like Dick Van Dyke but he knows the Grinch ;)
Sam notices a reindeer statue and it's big eyes staring (!) and goes down memory lane here, remembering a Christmas they had long ago. (Watching that scene again, I can't help but think that he feels a little bad for brushing Dean off, that he feels like the reindeer is reproaching him - which is why he remembers this instance in the first place.)
And the memory he has here (1991 Nebraska) is not very happy. He's wrapping a gift for dad, and Dean asks him if he stole the money to which Sam replies that no, Uncle Bobby gave it to him to give to dad. This is interesting, because Bobby and John are friends, yes, but I'm always having the image of them fighting. Why would Bobby give Sam something "real special" to give to John? Was it just because Sam asked? He could have given Sam anything. I wonder why that amulet... knowing it was going to go to John? Did he think it might get a good laugh? The fact that it was an amulet to search for God?
In any case, Sam is like, dad IS going to be here right? And Dean is telling him yes, dad knows it's Christmas and he will be there. And Sam starts to ask lots of questions that Dean can't answer about dad's job. Sam says, I'm old enough to know the truth. Tell me. Dean replies You DON'T want to know the truth. So, Sam knows and Dean admits that the whole dad is a salesman thing is not the truth. Sam has probably already looked at dad's journal at this point and just wants confirmation... or thinks he does anyway. But he brings up the fact that they never talk about mom and suddenly Dean lashes out at him.
DEAN: Shut up! Don’t you ever talk about Mom. Ever!
So, this is a rather shocking scene, with Dean all of a sudden shouting at Sam like that. And I guess the scene could have been done a little better but, the unchanging fact is that it was obviously getting harder and harder for Dean to keep the truth from Sam. Dean bears the difficult questions from him with increasing irritability, trying to avoid them by moving from the sofa to the bed, and at the mention of mom at the end, finally snapping and escaping out the door, slamming it behind him.
Back to the present, Dean is mentioning to Sam how for the 10 dollars they have to pay to get into this Santa's Village, the least they could do is scrounge up some snow - and we are alerted here to the fact that this is not a normal Christmas for this part of the States. We also notice the difference between the childhood scenes where Dean is looking at the snow out the window, and this green Christmas. But Sam is still in his dream world and doesn't hear what Dean is saying. When Sam comes to, they start talking about the characteristics of the "anti-claus." Lore says he walks with a limp and smells of candy - so that kids would come near him, and they are wondering how he finds out "whose been naughty or nice" when they come to a "Santa" listening to kids' wishes.
He's obviously drunk and ew! sounds like a pervert as well. But it's Sam and Dean that are mistaken for some instead by the resident elf.
ELFIN: Welcome to Santa’s court. Can I escort your child to Santa?
DEAN: No. No. Uh, but actually my brother here (smacks SAM on the shoulder) … it's been a lifelong dream of his.
ELFIN: Uh, sorry. No kids over… 12.
SAM: No, he’s just kidding. We only came here to watch.
ELFIN looks at DEAN, who shakes his head. ELFIN backs off.
SAM: I-I didn’t mean that we came here to w— Y— (DEAN looks at SAM) Thanks a lot, Dean. Thanks for that.
Well, they stay long enough to see Santa go off with a limp and the smell of candy? says Dean...no Ripple(a strong cider), I think, says Sam. And although they can't believe there really could be an anti-claus, and Sam could be right, they can't take the chance that they might be wrong, so they decide to stake out Santa. And while they do, Dean cannot help but ask Sam why he doesn't want to have Christmas.
DEAN: Why are you the boy that hates Christmas?
SAM: Dean ...
DEAN: I mean, I admit it. You know, we had a few bumpy holidays when we were kids.
DEAN: That was then. We’ll do it right this year.
So, again, a difference in perceptions here. Dean is admitting that they did have "a few" bumpy holidays but he is still surprised that Sam has such bad memories. Just then they see Santa closing the curtains to his trailer with glee, then hear a scream. Thinking they've got their guy, they rush in with guns drawn and find that Santa's just watching TV and ...
how to they explain having just barged in for no reason? Dean comes up with the spur of the moment idea to pretend they are carolers and we are treated to their awesomely off-pitch singing (turn it off!!) which Sam puts to an end(thank you!). Santa's too drunk to really be surprised or scared or angry for that matter - lucky for them. That is an awesome scene that I usually have to skip through after the few bars, because OMG how embarrassing and what terrible singing! But, kudos to Jensen for pulling it off, and to Dean for his pridelessness (kind of reminds me of the pudding scene aye? )
We now jump to another household and get a better glimpse of this evil santa-like being. We know he wears a red suit - which on second thought kind of looks like the skins of it's victims... and has claw like hands.
The little boy there just watches "Santa" as he stomps upstairs, produces screaming from his mom, and comes down with a bag filled with his dad wriggling away, reaches over his shoulder for a cookie... and then goes up the chimney. Interesting how the god doesn't take the child. It's all about the man of the house, it seems. Sam and Dean are there at the house asking questions as FBI the next day. It's a funny, awkward moment when Sam notices and asks about the wreath over the mantle and in the midst of talking about the "abduction." The wife is like, what are you talking about?! and Dean doesn't get it either until Sam explains outside that they saw the same wreath at the other house that was attacked - the Walshes' - where they were just yesterday. (Dean: I know. Just testing you.) It's back to their motel room to do a bit more research and maybe call Bobby(good idea!). Interesting part of this is that Sam asks Bobby "Keep looking, would ya." before he hangs up. We know that Bobby just told Sam what the "monster" was, so he's not talking about looking for possible monsters. He's talking about looking for ways to get Dean out of his deal. As to the monster, Bobby's exact words are probably "It's pagan gods, you idjits!"
He also tells Sam that the wreaths probably have medowsweet in them.
WOW. Meadowsweet. What's meadowsweet?
Sam explains to Dean that meadowsweet is a rare plant used in sacrificial rituals to pagan gods.
Then they have this interesting conversation about Christmas not really being the date of Jesus' birthday and Sam explains that the Church just uses the Winter solstice holiday to celebrate Jesus' birthday and that much of Christmas tradition is actually pagan. Dean is again impressed. They also find out that the god of the Winter Solstice gives mild weather in return for sacrifice - which explains having no snow in the middle of winter in Michigan.
It's off to find out who made and sold these wreaths having meadowsweet in them. We have another cute scene at the Christmas goods store.
DEAN: We were playing jenga with the Walshes the other night and he hasn't shut up since about these Christmas wreaths?... I don't know, you tell'm.
SAM: Sure, it was yummy.
CLERK: I sell a lot of wreaths, guys.
SAM: Right, right, but, but you see this one would have been really special. It had green leaves, white buds on it... might have been made out of meadowsweet?
CLERK: Well, aren't you a fussy one.
Disgruntled Sammy, to be playing the brunt of the joke again... And Dean has one of those smiles for the clerk that blows me away ~
They find out that a lady brought these wreaths to the shop and gave them to the owner for free and that they are all sold out. I wonder what they were going to do if they were not sold out. Put one up themselves and wait for the god to come? I guess.
When they get back to the motel, they are both sitting on the side of their beds and Dean starts talking about the wreath made out of beer cans that dad brought home (stole from a liqueur store) one Christmas. I think we tend to brush over this, scoffing about how dad stole the crummy wreath but it does show that Dean's memories of happy Christmases is not incorrect. We sometimes assume that because Dad was gone for the one childhood Christmas we see here, that he was never there. But actually, this wasn't always the case. It is entirely possible that along with their "bumpy" Christmas' they also had some that Dean considered pretty good.
Sam's like, what's with you? Why do you want to do Christmas all of a sudden? Dean's like, what do you have against it? Were your childhood Christmas' so traumatic? Sam answers - that has nothing to do with it. It's just you haven't talked about it in years. Why now?
DEAN: Well, yeah, it's my last year.
SAM: ... (sigh) I know. That's why I can't.
DEAN: What do you mean?
SAM: I can't just sit around drinking eggnog and pretending that everything is ok when I know that next Christmas you'll be dead. I just can't.
And Dean kind of looks away and nods, and both Dean and Sam are tearing up and you can feel what both of them are feeling so much. And well, it's a scene were I can't help but shed a tear.
We jump to the next part of Sam's memory of that night when everything changed. Dean seems to have cooled his head while he was out and brought back some (very unhealthy) dinner for Sam as a peace offering. But Sam tells him, hey, I've read dad's journal. I know why we salt the places we stay, and I know why you keep a gun under your pillow. Are monsters real?
Obviously Sam is still disbelieving, but he has all the evidence and Dean just can't make excuses anymore and he decides he has to tell him.
(they are sitting on their beds as they talk, just as they are sitting in the present)
DEAN: First thing you have to know is, we have the coolest dad in the world. He's a superhero.
SAM: He is?
DEAN: Yeah. ... Monsters are real. Dad fights them. He's fighting them right now.
SAM: But dad said that the monsters under my bed weren't real.
DEAN: 'cause he already checked under there. But... yeah, they're real. Almost everything is real.
SAM: Is Santa real?
Sam starts to worry that dad is in danger, that they are all in danger. Dean tries to assure him that the monsters would never get dad, but Sam has read in dad's journal that they killed mom. If they can get mom, they can get dad and they can get us. And despite Dean's assurances, Sam is overwhelmed and tears up, all the while trying to hold it in. Dean tries to cheer him up.
DEAN: Dad's going to be here for Christmas. Just like he always is.
SAM: I just want to go to sleep ok?
(So dad was usually home for Christmas. This time could have been the one time that he actually wasn't, aye?)
Sam cries as he lays down on his pillow.
DEAN: It will all be better when you wake up. You'll see. Promise.
In the present, Sam and Dean are visiting the address they were given by the store owner.
DEAN: So this is where Mrs Wreath lives. Can't you just feel that evil pagan vibe?
and find a jolly old couple like something out of an old 60s comedy.
MAN: Oh the wreaths are fine. Fine wreaths. Care for some peanut brittle?
The high tension friendliness of the old lady and old man with the pipe are quite spooky. Still, when the man offers some peanut brittle to Dean, he cannot help but put out his hand for some and has to be stopped by Sam (seriously, if he had been Hansel in Bedtime Stories he couldn't have resisted that pie either aye?!)
They get back to their motel and Dean is busy sharpening the pine stakes they are going to use to kill the god (s). It's kind of funny because he has the wastebasket between his legs but he's not getting any of the shavings into it :D Sam is researching again and has found out about that incident in Seattle. They are still not sure who the god is and think the couple maybe hiding him in their house or something.
DEAN: So what Ozzie and Harriet are keeping a pagan god hidden underneath their plastic couch?
SAM: I don't know. All I know is that we've got to check them out. So what about Bobby? He's sure evergreen stakes are going to kill this thing right?
DEAN: Yeah, he's sure.
It's night time and Sam and Dean are back at the Carrigan's with their stakes. Upstairs, there seems to be nothing untoward, except it looks like some candy house from Hansel and Gretel. The gods have a serious sweet tooth. Kind of like the anti-claus legend aye?
Dean notes the sofas are covered in plastic (to keep them clean from the blood?? ), and Sam finds the door to the cellar. They find all the evidence there, blood, gore and when Sam touches one of those bags that the god was carrying his bounty in it moves! Right then, there is mrs god with her super powers, and she holds Sam up on the wall with her bare hands. When Dean goes to rescue him with a stake, he gets knocked out by mr. god.
MRS. GOD: Gosh I wish you boys hadn't come down here.
And she knocks Sam out.
When they come to, they are tied to chairs facing away from each other and mr. and mrs god come in - we thought you'd sleep through everything! Mr. god says you're hunters is what you are, Dean says, and you're gods. So why don't we just call it even and go our separate ways. So you can come back with more hunters and kill us? I don't think so. Sam says well you should have thought of that before snacking on humans shouldn't you have? says Sam - mrs. god says well we used to get over a hundred tributes a year. Now we get 1 or 2... These boys make 5 says mr. god. Well, that's not so bad is it? answers mrs. god. Mr. God tells them - you guys need to show us some respect.
I just love Sam and Dean's faces there.
Going on, mr. god slices Sam's arm and when mrs god slices Dean and he swears at her so she tells Dean that he shouldn't use such dirty words - use "fudge" instead!
DEAN: I'll try to remember that.
Mr. god then pulls out Sam's fingernail (ouch!) and it looks like they are pretty much done for.
DEAN: Merry Christmas, Sammy
Which is when mr god remembers they need a tooth so he gets the pliers and is just about to pull out Dean's tooth when...
And they are saved by the bell. When mr. and mrs. god get back, the boys are gone. One through one door, one through the other to confuse the gods.
They lock the doors behind them with furniture, then go to make some makeshift stakes with the lovely Christmas tree in the living room. The gods get through and have the upper hand for a while but when Sam kills mrs god (her name is Meg?) mr. god is distracted and Dean is able to kill him too.
SAM: Merry Christmas
We are back with the flashback. Dean has figured, since it doesn't look that dad will be back, to do Christmas for Sam himself. He steals presents for him, which unfortunately turn out to be girls presents and pretends that dad came, but Sam knows it was Dean.
DEAN: I'm sure dad would have been here if he could.
SAM: If he's alive
DEAN: Don't say that. Of course he's alive. He's dad.
But Sam decides that it's Dean he really wants to give his present to and despite protests, he gives his present to Dean.
I really love Sam's nod here. It's like he's saying to himself. Yes, I did the right thing. Dean has always been there for me and done all this for me to make me happy. He deserves a gift in return.
Back to the present - Sam is waiting for Dean to come back from getting some beer and is remembering the above scene. Now that the gods are dead, Michigan is back to having snow ;) As we see Dean come in, we see the same necklace on Dean.
I guess on a first time watch, the necklace would have been familiar but we would not have known what it meant to Sam and to Dean. Now as I think of it, Sam would have thought of that night every time he looked at that necklace - as both a painful memory when he first found out about the world, and also as a good memory of what Dean had tried to do for him.
Sam has prepared a little tree and decorations, to Dean's surprise and delight. It reminds me of the little Christmas that Dean prepared for Sam back then.
Sam (who had said he could not drink eggnog and pretend everything was alright) has got some spiked eggnog and is forcing himself to pretend and be cheerful.
DEAN: What's all this?
SAM: What do you think it is? It's Christmas!
Sam doesn't answer Dean. Instead, he gives Dean a cup of eggnog.
SAM: Try the eggnog. Let me know if it needs some more kick.
Dean has got some presents for Sam and (Great minds think alike) Sam has also got a couple for Dean.
Sam's doing his best to sound really cheerful as he comments on his presents. When Dean asks him, "You like?" He kind of goes into quiet mode as he answers, "yeah, ... yeah."
(And we see Sam with his nod again, just like in the memory.)
So let's go back to Dean's question. What made Sam change his mind? I cannot help but think that Sam changed his mind because of that one memory. His memory of Dean doing Christmas for him on that lonely Christmas day when dad did not come back and he was, for the first time in his life, worried that some monster might have killed him - that they might be all alone in the world. Just as he gave his gift to Dean way back as a thank you for looking out for him and trying to give him Christmas - he decided that this time, he would give Dean the Christmas he wanted. He would drink eggnog and pretend - for Dean - that everything was all right. That was his real present for Dean and I think when Dean thanks Sam for the presents, that is what he is really thanking Sam for. The presents themselves are not really important here at all. (Not that I don't love those too - I am a simple girl myself.)
As they drink the eggnog, Sam turns to Dean again -
But he can't finish what he was going to say. Instead, he asks Dean if he'd like to watch the game. I don't know what he was going to say, but I can imagine it to be similar to what he said in Salvation - "I want to thank you. You've always had my back. Even when I couldn't count on anyone. I could always count on you. "
and, maybe ..."I'm going to get you out of this deal. You'll see."