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The story is set on Christmas Eve in a New England town in the late 1890s. The Cosgrove family’s home is in an uproar over the holidays. The patriarch, Clark Cosgrove (Paul Lynde) is frazzled by the gift demands of his loud children. His wife Nellie (Anne Meara) runs into endless friction with Clark’s formidable mother (Alice Ghostley), who lives with them. Nellie’s inebriated father (Foster Brooks) and cat-loving mother (Martha Raye) arrive for the holiday, and tensions arise between the mothers-in-law. A German uncle (Howard Morris) is also arriving, but complications ensue when a traveling salesman (George Gobel) is mistaken for the uncle. Adding to the tumult is a visit from a caroling neighbor (Anson Williams). During the night, Clark’s mother-in-law’s cat escapes from the house and winds up on the roof. Clark goes to retrieve the cat and creates a ruckus, waking the house. When the children ask if the noise came from Santa Claus, Clark initially wants to dispel the myth of Santa Claus. Instead, he appeases them by reciting A Visit from St. Nicholas.