Merry Christmas from Mayberry! This is one of my personal all-time favorite Andy episodes,it's very well done and shows the big hearts of the Mayberry folks, especially at Christmastime. It's Christmas eve at the courthouse, and Barney has brought in a stack of Christmas cards from the mail, to had to their already-big collection on display( Andy"I think more people remembered us this year than they ever did!) They even get a Christmas wish from a group of brothers up in the state prison, and Barney remarks what a nice family portrait they always send! Barney gets a little Christmas sugar of his own, with early girlfriend Hilda May (pre-Thelma Lou) sending him a sweet card. But Andy just has to tease the reluctant Barney-"What did she say that was so sweet?" Barney mumbles around-and then finally reveals a *VERY* embarrassing sentiment!-"Merry Christmas..Barney Parney Poo!" And Barney goes away mad, not wanting to open any more Christmas cards. The phone rings (the model is even dated for its time) and it's Aunt Bea. She wonders when Andy is going to be home from the courthouse so they can start the Christmas party, and Opie is looking forward to seeing Santa Claus. But Andy played Santa Claus last year (before the real Santa Claus came!) and he doesn't want to play it this year. Aunt Bea suggests Barney, but he's a might thin-Andy guesses he could tell Opie Santa Claus had been on a diet! But then the Barney realizes something-they may not be able to make it home to have the Christmas party because they still have some prisoners locked up (on Christmas Eve in Mayberry??) for some minor offenses, and there would be no one there to guard them. Barney WAS looking forward to playing Santa Claus and trying out his ho-ho-ho's. But then Andy has an idea-since this hear jail is kinda like a school, everybody knows that students get a break from school during Christmas! So, clad in coats and carrying wrapped Christmas presents, the bad boys of Mayberry get set free and home to their families. Just as they have it made, more trouble's up-cranky Ben Weaver has just brought in a moonshiner Sam Muggin for possessing his "Merry Up Christmas" brew in front of his store.Andy would hate to lock a feller up for Christmas-but he's had dealings with Ben before, and there's just nothing he can do with this old geezer. Seems Sam is fated to miss Christmas with his wife and family, and Andy and Barney the Christmas party. But by dog, there is more than one way to pluck a buzzard!-and if you can't get to the Christmas party, just bring the Christmas party to the courthouse-starting with Sam's wife Beth and kids Bethany and Billy. Then the whole gang joins them, Aunt Bea bringing a fabolous Christmas dinner with all the trimmings (including that good orange dressing!)girlfriend Ellie carrying the eggnog, and little Opie in his winter wear. Barney brings in a Christmas tree( the kind with the pre-attached stand back in the day!) and before Ben can ruin any more of their fun, they start singing Christmas songs like "Deck the Halls". Ben leaves this merry scene, and can still hear them singing inside, as he passes a Santa head decoration in the window. But Ben is determined to ruin the fun-and Opie spots him stealing a bench , strolling down the street. Andy almost locks him up-but since it is Christmas, Ellie pays his fine. The gang is enjoying all the festivities, the woman getting the dinner ready-with glass dishes even-and Andy and Barney trying to find which light bulb has short-circuited the whole tree. The tree is lit, and Ellie starts singing a beautiful rendition of Away in a Manger,-with Andy's guitar accompanyment- and Sam and Beth get sentimental. But it's scroogly Ben-singing , unnoticed by the others , thru the jailhouse window-seems Ben is a bit sentimental himself. After the songs, we hear jingle bells-and a very funny Barney comes out as Santa Clause-looking pencil thin in his suit and his beard hanging down below his chin. Now it's time for Christmas eve dinner, the kids line up first.But Ben decides there's no other way fro him to be noticed, except rattle some crates out back. Andy wonder if Barney parked his reindeers out back-and he better go see what's riling them. Andy finds Ben on the ground in the back alley, and can't undertstand why anyone would cause so much trouble at this happiest time fo the year-that is until he turns his head and hears the merriment inside. But why would Ben do a fool thing like that? And why wouldn't a lonely old man want to be part of a "family" for Christmas?
Andy does a mock arrest--and Ben, with suitcase in tow, proceeds to pass out gifts for all his new friends! Opie gets rollerskates, Billy gets a baseball mit, and Bethany get a big babydoll. he also passes out shaving lotion and other wrapped prestns for the adults-and now the women have caught on and offer Ben a big Christmas dinner-complete with a cup of eggnog.
Late into Christmas eve, the kids are koncked out, and Barney carries Opie home-and he's asleep with his new rollerskates on. Andy and Ellie end the evening with a small kiss-and the Muggin family in sleeping in the cell. Sam better get the kids home to bed before Santa comes-and the kids aren't the ONLY ones who are sleepy! Seems Ben has koncked out himself-on the very batch of moonshine he tried to get Sam arrested for in the first place! Merry Christmas!