I’m going to jump the gun a little bit on my Christmas books and other entertainment list, since the holiday season is extended enough to allow you to actually check them all out. Here are my recommendations for books, movies and music to get you in the holiday spirit (and avoid further replays of Mariah Carey):
Now, this is a difficult category. Why? Great authors apparently don’t write Christmas, long-form fiction. Well, except for Charles Dickens… and then a handful of old, “light,” pastoral authors, like Laura Ingalls Wilder. Other than that, it’s almost all quick cozies that I’m not hugely fond of. But, if I remember correctly, when John Grisham released Skipping Christmas several years ago, it was almost a hit before it was published. Why? A lack. Hmm… Gives me an idea.
Well, here’s what I have got.
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Pretty much the only option. It is so good, though, that it has been used and even abused over and over and over again. The book is the best version, in my opinion. Scrooged (1999) is pretty good.
The Northumbria Community’s Celtic Daily Prayer: Prayers and Readings from the Northumbria Community. This one makes the list because not only is it a lovely prayer book, but it has sections on Advent which we use for Advent and for our Jesse branch.
Now there are a very large number of kid’s books out there, but I can really say I love only two, so far; Chris Van Allsburg’s The Polar Express and Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! I am far more partial to these books than to their–even most popular–movie counterparts.
As a matter of interest, I am going to try to get my hands on the other two books that I found during research that actually might be pretty good; Wally Lamb’s Wishin’ and Hopin’, O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi and L. Frank Baum’s The Life and Times of Santa Clause. The second one might prove difficult to get.
MOVIES (in no particular order):
Love Actually (2003). A couple of the plot lines are not as good as the rest, and at least one of them is obvious and overdone (Hugh Grant’s), but there are others that make it more than worth it, like Emma Thompson’s. A great romantic comedy featuring Christmastime, and I pull it out year after year.
Elf (2003). This might be my favorite. It doesn’t get high ratings for its plot line, surely, but the comedy and comedic acting. It is so darn funny. “Buddy the Elf. What’s your favorite color?”
Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001). Another rom-com. Another one I pull out year after year. It’s not strictly a Christmas movie, but begins and ends with Christmastime and Christmas scenes. Who doesn’t want to open up a movie to Renee Zellweger doing drunken leg-kicks to Celine Dion?
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989). This has to be the movie I’ve watched most over my lifetime. Perhaps it’s because I grew up with it, but I just can’t spend a holiday season without watching Aunt Bethany say the pledge of allegiance over the dried-out Christmas turkey.
A Christmas Story (1983). This is like The Wonder Years for Christmastime and funnier. And that’s a good thing.
Arthur Christmas (2011). Sort of the new guy, but this kid’s movie is up there for all of us. My sister, who never buys movies, bought this one to add to her very select Christmas collection. Love the elf who wraps her head, and so will you.
Honorable Mentions: The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) which I prefer to watch for Halloween, but it’s an either-or, It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), classic, and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) which is also not strictly a Christmas movie, but does include Santa Claus and a whole lotta’ snow. The you can watch parts two and three into the new year.
If I’m going to grab Christmas flicks for my kids, the two I would go for (besides those already mentioned) are: How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) and Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer (1964). The ones from the 60s are still the best.
Now this is a category that is giant chasm filled with everything you could imagine. Like books, terrible art abounds, but there are also plenty of things worth finding.
She and Him‘s A Very She and Him Christmas. Zooey Deschanel has a lovely voice and a very fun spirit, as well as impeccable taste.
Ella Fitzgerald‘s Ella Wishes You a Swingin’ Christmas. I always like Ella, but she’s especially nice when you want to hear more traditional music while you’re doing all your traditional things.
Sixpence None the Richer‘s The Dawn of Grace and Leigh Nash‘s Wishing for This. It’s not a coincidence that these albums are similar; Leigh Nash is the singer for Sixpence, and her sweet voice has made her famous and addictive.
Mannheim Steamroller‘s Mannheim Steamroller A Fresh Aire Christmas or others. I admit that I like rock ballads and Aerosmith, and when I listen to this with my son (he loves it), it’s like Axle Rose is about the break in over that full orchestra and electric guitar. On a similar note, there’s Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas Eve and Other Stories.
I also love to hear the good ol’ classics at Christmastime: Dean Martin‘s Christmas with Dino; Gene Autry‘s The Christmas Album; Frank Sinatra‘s A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra; Perry Como‘s Greatest Christmas Songs; Bing Crosby‘s White Christmas. All this music really takes me back to my own childhood memories of Christmas Eve at my Great Grandma June’s, Aunt Sharon bopping around with kisses and hugs, a buffet out on the Christmas plaid-bedecked table, and relatives and dark wood paneling all around. It also helps that my Grandma and great aunts have always spoken–when referring to these singers–in tones not unlike my sister and I may one day use to refer to Kirk Cameron and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Honorable Mentions:Vince Guaraldi Trio’s A Very Charlie Brown Christmas, The Beach Boys’ The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album, Handel’s Messiah: The Complete Work, and Michael W. Smith’s Christmas Album, mostly for specific songs and nostalgia’s sake.
In order to get all the titles of albums straight, I had to do some serious internet prowling. As a result, I compiled a list of albums I would like to check out. Here is that list: Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector; Low’s Christmas; Barenaked Ladies’ Barenaked for the Holidays; Maybe This Christmas Tree; Chris Isaak’s Chris Isaak Christmas; Juan Esquivel’s Merry Xmas from the Space-Age Bachelor Pad; Glee, The Music’s The Christmas Album (and The Christmas Album, Volume 2); Michael W. Smith’s Glory, Christmastime, and It’s a Wonderful Christmas; A Very Special Christmas albums; John Fahey’s The New Possibility: John Fahey’s Guitar Soli Christmas Album; Robert Shaw’s The Many Moods of Christmas; Maybe This Christmas. They all seem like they would be cool.