I love Christmas. More specifically, I love the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. I love the traditions of Christmas: the parties with family and friends; the trees and lights; the carols; the cheery, excited children getting out of school for the holidays; Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin; and all of the Christmas goodies. At home, Lauri makes the house feel like a house should feel at Christmas. At work, the ladies do the same thing. There’s a magic about it all.
One of my favorite Christmas traditions is breaking out the Christmas movies. My definition of “Christmas movie” does not include Bill Murray’s “Scrooged” or Bruce Willis’s “Die Hard.” It has to be about Christmas. Here are my favorites:
“It’s a Wonderful Life.” (1946) Frank Capra’s classic movie starring James Stewart and Donna Reed, it is a movie about a man’s personal legacy and self-worth. Lauri introduced me to this movie and it quickly became my favorite.
“It Happened On Fifth Avenue.” (1947) Last year while I was laid-up nursing my wounds, I watched a lot of Netflix. I had never heard of this movie, but tried it. I loved it. Why is this movie not better known? According to WikiPedia there is a reason for the film’s obscurity: “After 1990, this film essentially disappeared from broadcast and retail availability. Despite an Academy Award nomination, a cult film following through a dedicated fan website, and requests to Turner Classic Movies and American Movie Classics to show the film, it was not shown on American television for almost twenty years. It finally aired on Turner Classic Movies in 2009 and appears frequently during the holiday season in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Hallmark Movie Channel also broadcast the film in 2014.” Watch it. You’ll like it.
“A Muppet Christmas Carol” (1992) Some of you are thinking, “Really, Larry? A Muppet movie?” Yes, a Muppet movie. When our oldest son, Michael, was a child, we did what parents do and rented VHS (that was a thing then) movies for children. This one got my attention. Unlike many modern versions of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, this version didn’t strip Dickens’s story of its Christian content. And how can you not like Statler and Waldorf at Fozziwig’s Christmas party?
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” (1965) In a recent staff blog post, Ben Halbrooks tells the story of how this little classic almost never happened because Charles Shultz refused to allow producers to remove the Gospel from it. Linus’s narration of The Christmas Story is wonderful.
“A Christmas Story” (1983) Author Jean Shepherd’s childhood memories of Christmas in 1950s Wisconsin are full of nostalgia and Americana. When I first saw this film in the 1980s, I didn’t like it. It struck me as jaded. Over the years, however, I have come to appreciate the heart of this film. Darrin McGavin is terrific as Ralphie’s gruff father who swears like “an artist,” but who is, at the end of the day, a pretty good father.
“The Bells of St. Mary’s” (1945) Bing Crosby plays Father O’Malley and Ingrid Bergman is Sister Mary Benedict. Sister Mary Benedict is determined to save the Catholic school which is threatened with closure; Father O’Malley is determined to save Sister Mary Benedict. Both seemed made to play these roles.
“Holiday Inn” (1942) I have to throw in a final favorite and, in doing so, I violate my own rule. This movie isn’t really a Christmas movie. There’s no manger scene and while Christmas is part of the movie, it isn’t all of it. But this movie gave us Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas,” so it works. Add Fred Astaire’s dancing and you have a classic. I think what I love most about this film is the home and the life Bing Crosby’s character longs to create: a secluded place in the forest with rocking chairs by a crackling fire, a well stocked kitchen, friendly people who seek shelter from a world gone mad–it all just speaks of a warm hospitality. I long for just such a life, but am not meant to have it.
I hope that you and your families enjoy the traditions of Christmas. Embrace them. Have fun with them. Most of all, celebrate them and the birth of our Lord and Savior with your family and friends.