Bluey: Veranda Santa (2019) and Christmas Swim (2020)

Despite being a longtime fan of children's media, I admit that Bluey might not have been on my radar if I wasn't the parent of a young child. And that's a shame, because I think this show is funny and poignant enough to charm almost anyone.

The show follows the everyday adventures of Bluey and Bingo Heeler, two young sisters (ages 6 and 4) who can and do turn anything into a game. Their parents encourage and play along with the kids' imaginations, and the show is a fantastic portrait of great parents who are still realistic parents. While there are lessons to be learned, they are often subtle, blended into the stories, and sometimes for the adults rather than the kids. The show has honestly made me tear up on more than one occasion. It's popular worldwide for very good reasons.

It's also one of the most fascinating exercises in anthropomorphic animal fantasy I've seen in a long while. All the characters are dogs. But they are also people. They have houses and drive cars and cook in kitchens and go to work or school or the playground. But unlike many "talking animals" cartoons, they are still definitely dogs. Their ears and tails show their emotions (adorably). Characters occasionally bark to get someone's attention, and very young babies yip and growl before they talk. The balance between dog characteristics and human characteristics is very smart and carefully constructed. I love that all the characters have dog names. Bluey's parents are Bandit (Dad) and Chilli (Mom). Her friends include Mackenzie, Coco, Snickers, and Honey. 

There are very good articles you can read about Bluey and theories of play and child development and how the show supports parents and more. But we're here about Christmas.

Here's where it becomes important that Bluey is explicitly set in Australia, so viewers should expect warm weather in December. There have been two episodes of Bluey set at Christmas so far. 

In Veranda Santa, Bluey's cousins Muffin and Socks are visiting on Christmas Eve. There's no chimney, so the kids decide that Santa comes in through the veranda, and quickly make a game out of it. Bluey, Bingo, and Muffin (and dad Bandit) take turns coming in to leave "presents" (random stuff from around the house) to the others, who "sleep." They establish several times that only nice kids get presents, and bicker about apologizing for various misdeeds. Bluey starts to buy into the nice-equals-presents equation a little too much, and her dad starts to get concerned. 

As the game progresses, Socks also joins in, but when Bluey tries to pick her up as part of a joke, Socks (who's only a baby and much more puppyish than the other girls) bites Bluey.

Bluey retaliates by not leaving Socks a present in the next round of the game, and Socks runs off, crying. After talking more with her parents and seeing how upset Socks is, Bluey decides that maybe getting presents isn't the right reason to be nice to people, and she and Socks make up. All the kids and grownups go back to playing together. 

It's a sweet, funny episode that does a great job gently exploring the pitfalls awaiting parents and kids who lean too hard on "Santa is watching you." The decorations (including on palm trees outside) are cozy and bright and the music is blended with classic holiday tunes. You could easily not notice the lack of snow, because the episode takes place at night and mostly indoors.

In the episode Christmas Swim, much of the extended Heeler family is together on Christmas Day, exchanging gifts. Bluey receives a new doll that she immediately loves and names Bartleby. Then it's time for a traditional Christmas pool party and barbeque, of course, because it's high summer. Bluey brings Bartleby around to introduce him to all the members of her family and enjoy his "first Heeler Christmas," but she starts to get upset after a number of playful games mean that the doll is roughed up and tossed into the pool and shaken about. 

She decides that Bartleby thinks her family is too rough and wants to go home. Then Bluey's Uncle Rad joins the party on a video call, and Bluey talks to her Aunt Frisky, who has only recently become part of the family by getting together with Rad. Frisky gives Bartleby some advice, telling him to be patient and he'll see how much love goes along with the family's surface zaniness. After this, the whole family helps Bartelby clean up and has a great time together.

The southern hemisphere setting is much clearer in this episode, but the family holiday dynamic, including the feeling of being unsure or self-conscious about your family when you're introducing someone new, is universal. 

These are both sweet episodes. They're not the best of the show, but I have yet to run across a bad or boring episode. While having more context and history with the characters increases my enjoyment of every episode of Bluey, it's the kind of show that you can pick up at any point. I recommend any episode of Bluey wholeheartedly to parents, kids, and anyone who remembers being a kid.  

One final note: These are technically the first pieces of holiday media that our own little elf has watched with us for the blog. Her only comment, however, was excitement that they were wearing a "Christmas hat" (Santa hat) in the first episode.