1982: The Year E.T. Saved Christmas


The biggest film of 1982 (if not the entirety of the ’80s) was Steven Spielberg‘s E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial. The film was such a massive pop culture touchstone that it remained in theaters for months, and by the time the holiday season rolled around it seemed like everyone was trying to cash in on the Coors-loving alien’s out-of-this-world adventures.

The most notorious product associated with the character is Atari’s legendarily bad E.T. game, which resulted in many of a 1980s kid spending Christmas day trying to get E.T. out of a crudely animated pit. Not that you’d ever know how terrible the game was judging by the commercial. Take a look:

How about the weird little E.T. dressed as Santa in that ad, huh? Chilling! Of course, there was also the requisite Yuletide products emblazoned with E.T.’s image, including Christmas tree ornaments, wrapping paper and even decorations in which he was all decked out for the holiday:


The weirdness didn’t stop there. Some malls and community events had appearances by Santa E.T., resulting in holiday pictures that were more terrifying than usual:




At this point, you are probably saying to yourself, “gee, if E.T. was so popular in Christmas of 1982, how come there were no songs about, say, him assisting Santa Claus when Rudolph’s nose goes on the fritz?” Ahem:

Yes friends, country crooner Marty Merchant gave us “E.T.’s Helping Santa,” a truly fantastic — and tragically forgotten — Christmas novelty song that demands to be a staple on holiday playlists.

While E.T.’s creepy, orange-lit stranglehold over Christmas didn’t last very long, it certainly was interesting. Do you have a tale of how E.T. impacted your holidays? Because if you do, tell us about it ASAP. We’ll be right here.

This article originally ran last year, we are reprinting it as part of our month-long celebration of the holidays