It’s supposed to be the happiest time of the year, but for MacGyver, it’s probably the worst time of the year considering he lost both parents around the Christmas period.
We’re all familiar with the story of how his mom died from complications of a stroke the day after Christmas while he was on assignment in Afghanistan and how the anguish of not being there for her or having a chance to say goodbye ate away at him, but the timing of his fathers passing was never really focused on. We know from the “Phoenix Under Seige” that the accident happened the night of December 14, 1962, when MacGyver was 10 years old and we find out in the “Runners” episode that he’s always felt that if he had gone with his father and grandmother that night when they went to the store he may have been able to do something to save them when the car crashed.
It’s highly probable that these two tragic events are the driving force behind why he’s always “running towards trouble” and wanting to help people – he’s trying to make up for not being there for his parents at their most vulnerable time. It could also be the root cause of his relationship phobia and why he’s always blaming himself for the injury or death of friends. We see this angst play out several times through the series where anything bad happening to a girlfriend or friend while they were with him is taken on as his personal fault and the weight of that tragedy drives him to help the next person he can in an attempt to make up for it while reinforcing his idea that bad things happen to people he cares about. We see prime examples of this in ‘Lost Love’ where he tells Jack that he killed Lisa because he let her go into the mission with him instead of going alone as he had originally wanted to, and again in ‘The Widowmaker’ where he blames himself for Mike’s death, telling Nikki to save herself the trouble of being his friend because his friends get hurt.
From carrying this kind of guilt and emotion for all these years, it would be fairly understandable for MacGyver to become a complete Scrooge at Christmas but to his credit, he still manages to fully participate in the Christmas festivities and even encourage and help others to join in and enjoy the Christmas spirit. His downfall seems to be the Christmas carol ‘I’ll be home for Christmas’, which although isn’t really explained in the show, we can make an educated guess that it reminds him that he wasn’t home for Christmas the year his mother died and hearing it brings back all the memories, emotions and especially guilt of that situation.
For many, this story will have some personal depth to it with loved ones either no longer with us or not able to be with us on Christmas, and this time of year is always a time when their absence is particularly noticeable. The lesson we can take from this though is to focus on the family and friends who are here with us on the day and aim to handle any angst with the grace and dignity we see MacGyver using for his situation.