There's no place like home for the holidays, but General Hospital's Port Charles is the second-best place to celebrate the festive season. The ABC soap opera pulls out all the stops in December, and one tradition that always gives viewers the feels is when the hospitalized children who are staying at GH are treated to a reading of the Christmas story and an appearance by Santa Claus!
Some extremely celebrated GH characters have participated in the annual event, including Dr. Steve Hardy (the late John Beradino), Dr. Alan Quartermaine (the late Stuart Damon), Edward Quartermaine (the late John Ingle), Dr. Monica Quartermaine (Leslie Charleson), and nurse Bobbie Spencer (Jacklyn Zeman). It's a very special tradition for fans, but it's also a special tradition for those who've worked on the soap, as well.
Former General Hospital writers Charles Pratt Jr. and Tracey Thomson recently spoke with Soap Central, and they shared that they absolutely loved both writing and watching the Christmas episodes during their tenures at GH (Pratt worked as a script writer from 1982 to 1984, a co-head writer with Robert Guza Jr. from 2002 to 2006, and a consulting producer from 2004 to 2006; Thomson worked in various script writing positions from 2005 to 2011 and as an associate head writer from 2011 to 2012).
"I always loved when they read the Christmas story on General Hospital. Every year, I was just waiting for it," Thomson shares. "Steve Hardy read it, Edward Quartermaine read it, John Beradino read it. Through the years, it was something you could always count on, no matter who was head writing the show or what characters were on the show -- you knew that you were always going to get the Christmas story."
Thomson adds that the casting for the special holiday episode was an added magical touch. "It was always a fun show because actors' kids and producers' kids played all the kids in the hospital," she says. "And every year, you got to watch those kids grow up."
Pratt also has fond memories of writing GH's holiday episodes. In fact, he says that they were often his favorite work of the year. "I was obsessed with Christmas episodes -- it was the coolest thing," Pratt enthuses. But he adds that it wasn't every writer's forte.
"When I was a scriptwriter on GH -- this was years and years ago -- you would get your assignment, and one year, the Christmas show went to [former GH writer] Susan Goldberg. She is Jewish, so, she calls me up in a panic, going, 'What am I doing writing the Christmas show?! It says in the outline that John Beradino tells the Christmas story. Where do I find that? The Bible? Where is it?!"" Pratt recalls with a chuckle. "I said, 'No, they have it on a piece of paper somewhere. Just call them and just insert it into your script.' And she was like, 'Oh, thank God! I just can't believe they gave me that episode. They know I'm Jewish! They should have given it to you!'"
Though Pratt enjoyed working on GH's Christmas episodes, he admits that he is most proud of the holiday episodes he worked on for Santa Barbara, where he was a script writer from 1985 to 1986, a co-head writer with Anne Howard Bailey from 1986 to 1989, and sole head writer from 1989 to 1990.
"I know everybody has done it a thousand times, but when Santa Barbara did [Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol], it was one of the first times it had been done in soaps," he shares. "When I was at Santa Barbara, we tended to break a lot of new ground, and we did Mason Capwell [Lane Davies] as Scrooge. He got the three ghosts -- Judith Chapman was one of the ghosts -- and it was incredible."
He continues, "[Lane Davies] is kind of a Shakespearian actor, and he has a fake English accent, and it was so good, because Mason was that kind of character -- he was a Scrooge that nobody liked, the black sheep of the family, and the whole thing had something to do with his big romance with Mary [Duvall, Harley Kozak]. I don't remember exactly what happened, except that we killed Mary later on, and that was a big mistake!"
For more from Thomson and Pratt about their writing careers, stay tuned for an upcoming Soap Central interview with the pair that will coincide with the second season premiere of their Disney+ series, The Secrets of Sulphur Springs, which is scheduled to drop in early 2022.
How do you feel about the way General Hospital celebrates Christmas on-screen? What are some of your favorite holiday episodes from the soap's decades-long run? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.