After faithfully and happily celebrating Christmas their entire lives, and with their daughter Blair in Peru to serve a stint in the Peace Corps, Luther and Nora Krank are facing the prospect of a very lonely holiday. One blustery Chicago night, Luther glances longingly at an alluring poster in a travel agency window and pictures himself and Nora basking in the glow of the sun on a Caribbean cruise. Though Nora is at first reluctant about going away for the holidays, she soon warms up to the idea. But when their neighbors find out, they are aghast, especially local busybody Vic Frohmeyer. To make matters worse, Luther refuses to put his illuminated Frosty the Snowman on his rooftop. Hemlock Street is famous for it and has won numerous contests sponsored by the local newspaper. The battle of wits between the Kranks and their neighbors quickly escalates, threatening the harmony of the community and, yes, the spirit of Christmas itself. Then, without warning, Luther and Nora get a call from Blair. She is coming home for Christmas after all and now the Kranks have less than twenty-four hours to get themselves and all the families on Hemlock Street back in the proper Christmas spirit.