There's been holiday editions of cereal for nearly as long as there's been boxes of cereal, but in truth, there's only ever been one to truly personify the spirit of Christmas. Some companies prefer to go about their festive journey half-assed: a few marshmallows shaped like candy canes here, a dash of Santa there, and you know the rest. No, there's been just one cereal brand brave enough to slap the word -- the honest to goodness "C" word -- right on the damn box. That cereal's parent was Cap'n Crunch. That cereal's name was...Christmas Crunch.

It's a bowl full of the holidays, and if you were lucky enough to be of cereal eating age during it's all too short reign as a seasonal champ, you've gotta remember just how amazing Christmas Crunch was. Yes, that's a real bowl of it up there. The sealed box you'll see in this article dates back to 1988, though Christmas Crunch survived past the turn of the century. I'd lost track of it over the years, but there's one thing I can say for sure -- it's gone now. At least around these parts. Believe me, I've searched long and hard. I know for certain that it was around even just a few years ago, complete with a new ad campaign, weird holiday cereal shapes and all. This old box seems to be one of the few remaining relics of breakfast's greatest achievement in its original form, and while its age may preclude me from having a safe taste, I plan to leave that bowl out year round. No more punched walls whenever I'm frustrated -- I'll just look towards my soothing bowl of Christmas Crunch and melt away into the frigid sands of Christmastime. Wow, this chair makes my ass hurt.

Christmas Crunch's yearly visit was one of the things I looked forward to most about the holidays. Keep in mind, I never even liked "Cap'n Crunch." The rough-edged bits did a major disservice to the roof of my mouth, and the pretty blahhhh taste didn't seem to justify my self-imposed nickname of "Ol' Bleeding Throat." My infatuation had nothing to do with eating cereal. The arrival of Christmas Crunch noted the arrival of the holiday season, and as a kid who'd rewrite his wish list 400 times a day while making sure to steal enough Christmas lights to saturate his entire bedroom in holy glow, no December felt complete without a box of Christmas Crunch. I never quite finished those boxes -- barely even got halfway through most of the time -- but oh, the HELL that'd be paid if Mom didn't stock the cabinet with that shit year after year.

Some people paid tribute to the holiday's true meaning by going to church on Christmas Eve. I paid tribute by making sure I had a box of Christmas Crunch instead, and I know God understands.

You know I'm excited about something when I break out the 600MB seven feet tall JPGs, so there's the box of Christmas Crunch as we knew it. Cap'n Crunch, ditching his familiar cobalt pirate suit for a more dashing Santa disguise, surrounds himself with loads of "Green Background #15-C" and a bowl of something magical. Notice how much happier the Cap'n looks dressed as Santa? Have his eyes ever shined so blue? Have his eyebrows ever looked so completely not on his face?

Christmas Crunch was essentially just a colored version of the already available "Crunch Berries" brand, and even if we were the wiser, nobody really cared. Green box...Cap'n dressed as Santa...only available in December -- nobody was going to tell us that Christmas Crunch wasn't special. Probably even more fondly remembered than the cereal was the commercial that promoted it -- the ultimate death mix of Christmas, advertising, and Cap'n Crunch...

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The commercial starts off with a view of our setting -- just your typical cartoon house in December, covered in snow and Christmas decorations. The kids living inside, keeping an ear out for Santa, hear some rustling in the kitchen. By the way, there's a Cap'n Crunch version of "Twas The Night Before Christmas" playing throughout the action, so if you don't quite get why the ad's so remembered, click on the download link a few paragraphs down and marvel at the catchiest cereal theme since Sugar Bear added "mo' honey."

The kids rush to the kitchen, wrong in their assumption that they'd find Santa raiding the fridge, but they're really only half wrong. As you can see, Cap'n Crunch has gone Santa. No longer limited by yo ho hos and swashbucklin' cereal peddlin', Cap'n Crunch finds himself in a Santa cap, trying to explain why he's in a stranger's kitchen on Christmas morning. Fortunately, the kids are familiar with his work and see no need to protect their secret parts.

The Cap'n goes on and on about Christmas Crunch, alternating song verses with the children in an amazing fit of breakfast/X-Mas hybrid cheer, and while common sense dictates that the kids had to know all about Christmas Crunch, they play along and act dopey. This gives the Cap'n the chance to explain his hot new cereal in detail, presenting the small crunchy pieces as some kind of rare moon rocks that just happened to be available for three bucks a box.

Not until Ron Popeil successfully shoved sixteen whole lambs through his rotisserie skewers have we seen another spokesperson so confident in their product -- the Cap'n knows he's pushing some serious crack. This was the ultimate scheme, mixing so many of the things kids went nuts for -- cereal, special editions, the holidays, and Catholic pirates holding fluorescent edible nuggets.

There's been too many Cap'n Crunch commercials over the years for me to count, with the adventure plots ranging from simple boat rides to giant robots to spermy creatures who existed only to sog up our cereal. I've even seen one where the Cap'n spends thirty-seconds breakdancing. For some reason, the Christmas Crunch commercial feels totally different from the rest -- the animation was a little more involved, the song was actually a song and not just a bunch of cereal blabber spoken like a song, and if you can make sense of that last part, I give you credit. Cap'n credit. Course, the one thing the ad didn't show you was the cereal in real life. If you wanted that, you'd have to buy it. Brilliant. For a guy who remained in the same lame costume throughout decades of changing social trends, Cap'n Crunch sure knew how to keep his wallet full. Of cereal. Wallet full of cereal.

While I took a pass on taste testing many of our recent food finds, I couldn't help it this time. I had to try the Christmas Crunch. The fifteen-year-old Christmas Crunch. Popping a green Crunch Berry in my mouth, I quickly realized the error of my ways, and almost as quickly gained a firm belief that I "knew da feelin" of anyone who's ever been forced to chew a poison dart frog. I thought the sealed bag and cellophane wrapped box would protect me as it so often has, but nope -- rancid. Completely rancid. So far beyond rancid that a new word to describe it should be forged so an upstart punk band would know where to "randomly" point to in the dictionary when naming themselves.

It was kinda like picking one of those chocolates out of a Valentine's box -- the ones with the terrible red death middles. Everything seems fine at've got the chocolate shell, and it's pretty enjoyable. One bite later and you're fishing through the junk drawer for a dental dam. Luckily, my reflexes kicked in quick enough and I was able to spit out the awful monster before swallowing. Now I've reserved my Christmas Crunch merely for decorative purposes, and to occasionally run my hands through either when I'm feeling down or when my fingers itch.

There's been plenty of Christmas themed cereal commercials -- many of which we'll be seeing over the next two weeks on this year's X-E Advent Calendar -- but I've got to give the nod to Christmas Crunch over all the rest. This was even better than the time Santa Claus moderated an argument between Fred and Barney, and that's saying something. Ho ho ho I'm hun hun hungry.

Follow the link below to watch the original ad in its entirety. A whole thirty seconds!

But wait! There's more! While the coups of a Christmas cereal were apparent to all, the Cap'n knew that his efforts would be for naught if they didn't include some kind of nifty free gift. Fittingly enough, we got tree ornaments featuring different Cap'n Crunch characters. There were four different in all, including one for the Soggies. Seeing that Soggy become engulfed with the Christmas spirit on the boxback was even stranger than watching Skeletor sing carols to an alien dog in the He-Man Christmas Special.

On the lower left, take note of the special recipe for "Caramel Crunch Balls," a sinister holiday concoction that lists Christmas Crunch as an ingredient. Click here if you're interested in making a batch. Don't get too interested, though -- you'll need a time machine for that special ingredient. Evidently, you'll also need "40 vanilla caramels." That's a whole lot of vanilla caramels. Almost 50!

My box came with the ornament shown above -- Cap'n Crunch, driving a sleigh, hip hip hooray. Never noticed this before, but if you flipped Cap'n Crunch's hat upside down, it'd look like a terrible dog wearing half of a nosering. I wonder if this was Quaker's intent.

To some it's just a cereal. To others, it's just a cereal they've never heard of. To me, Christmas Crunch is a reminder. A reminder of simpler times, of past holidays with family members who now live far, far away. A reminder not to eat fifteen-year-old cereal ever again. I love this stuff. And so does Father Christmas. And the camel that helped deliver Baby Jesus.

- Matt (12/12/03)



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