Country Throwback: Andy Griffith Performs ‘Away in a Manger’ in 1960 Christmas Episode

by Joe Rutland

If you’ve ever watched “The Andy Griffith Show,” then you know there can be golden lessons between laughs. One holiday episode stands out.

During the show’s first season on CBS, an episode called “Christmas Story” allowed Andy Griffith, as Sheriff Andy Taylor, some room to play the guitar. Yes, Griffith, the actor, and man, could actually play guitar and was quite good.

The episode centers around an old, wretched man named Ben Weaver who wanted a moonshiner named Sam arrested. Taylor and his trusty deputy Barney Fife, played by Don Knotts, did their best to tame the old man’s anger. They’d actually planned to send any prisoners home in Mayberry on Christmas Day if they were arrested.

Andy Griffith Character Quiets Angry Old Man Down

To ease Weaver’s temper, Taylor decided that Sam, his wife, and their children would spend Christmas at the sheriff’s office with Andy and Barney. See, the sheriff’s office came up with some trumped-up charges to bring Sam and his family in to keep Weaver quiet.

What they didn’t know is underlying Weaver’s anger was a dire sense of loneliness, especially at Christmas.

There is a spot in the episode where Taylor is visited by Ellie, played by Elinor Donohue of “Father Knows Best” fame. Ellie is Taylor’s girlfriend and they start talking. They eventually sit down near a spot where the food Aunt Bee brought down is on Andy’s desk. He’s got his guitar with him and begins to play while Ellie sings “Away in a Manger.”

Listen as Griffith and Donohue perform this Christmas classic.

‘Andy Griffith Show’ Episode Teaches Some Lessons

One thing Taylor and Ellie don’t know about is that looking into the jail from the outside is Ben Weaver. Yep, the mean old man started singing along with Ellie and Taylor.

The camera pans away from the couple, toward the jail cell, through it, then up to the window. There, Weaver is singing and, at the end, tears up. He doesn’t apparently have anywhere to go on Christmas.

There’s some ruckus being made outside the jail, Barney goes outside and drags Weaver into the sheriff’s office. While Barney may want to throw the book at old Ben, Andy sees an old man who might just want to be with people…not hurt them.

This episode ends with Weaver joining the other people inside the jail for the night. He’s also getting some of Aunt Bee’s cooking, too.

It’s quite an episode that goes far beyond Andy Griffith and Elinor Donohue performing “Away in a Manger.” Compassion, empathy, joy, and happiness are present throughout it. A grumpy old man who simply wants to be loved is shown love, only after tossing a childish temper-tantrum. Taylor bends the rules a little bit but keeps a family together at holiday time.

H/T: Classic Country Music