It’s that time of year! That joyous, joyous time of year! You know, when advent calendar chocolates get devoured on day one, when Christmas carols quickly become annoying, when the list of presents to buy gets distressingly long… Secretly though, like all the Christmas movies that start appearing on tv, you love it all. Not quite in the spirit yet? Never fear! Here are some Christmas themed materials to help you get there:
The Classics (most of which have handily been made into movies)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, Dr. Seuss
This is a Christmas favourite about the biggest, baddest, grumpiest villain with a heart two sizes too small. For 53 years, the Grinch has lived in a cave on the side of a mountain, looming above the Whos in Whoville. The noisy holiday preparations and infernal singing of the happy little citizens below annoy him to no end. The Grinch decides this frivolous merriment must stop. His “wonderful, awful” idea is to don a Santa outfit, strap heavy antlers on his poor, quivering dog Max, construct a makeshift sleigh, head down to Whoville, and strip the chafingly cheerful Whos of their Yuletide glee once and for all.
A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
You’ve heard of the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come right? Well now you need to read the quintessential classic from which they came. It was published in 1843 and has entranced millions of readers since because it touches upon the emotions, the senses, the human condition, and encapsulates it all in the life and death struggle we all go through…plus, who doesn’t love a good ghost story and a happy ending? Then there’s this film adaption. And this one. And this one. And this one. And my absolute favourite: The Muppets Christmas Carol.
The Gift of the Magi, O. Henry
One dollar and eight-seven cents is all the money Della has in the world to buy her beloved husband a Christmas present. She has nothing to sell except her only treasure – her long, beautiful brown hair. Set in New York at the turn of the twentieth century, this classic piece of American literature tells the story of a young couple and the sacrifices each must make to buy the other a gift. Beautiful, delicate watercolors by award-winning illustrator Lisbeth Zwerger add new poignancy and charm to this simple tale about the rewards of unselfish love.
Little Women, Louise Alcott
Why a Christmas book you ask? Well the opening line is: “”Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents, grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.” And so we are introduced to the March family; Meg (at sixteen the oldest, who longs for a rich life full of beautiful things), Jo (the willful, headstrong tomboy with aspirations to be a writer), Beth (gentle and kind, the ‘pet of the family’), Amy (the youngest, artistic, beautiful and spoiled) and Marmee, there busy but sympathetic mother. The book brings to life a universal struggle for girls and women to be themselves while at the same time following the conventions and expectations placed on them by wider society. Like all Victorian children’s books, Little Women is infused with a heavy dose of morality (and religious undertone) but at its heart it is the story of a family who love each other deeply and who support each other through all that life throws at them. It’s a wonderful book and Jo has been a wonderful role model for many a young woman.
Miracle on 34th Street, directed by George Seaton
Like all great Christmas classics, this tale is one of holiday spirit with a dark undertone thrown in (it’s why they’re all so wonderful). The holiday swing is in full swing when a cultured gentleman with twinkling eyes, an ample belly and a snowy bear (sound familiar) is hired as Macy’s department store Santa. He claims his name is Kris Kringle and soon fills everyone with Christmas spirit… except for his boss, Doris Walker, who’s raising her daughter to not believe in Santa. But when Kringle is declared insane and put on trial, everyone’s faith is put to the test as young and old alike face the age-old question: Do you believe in Santa Claus?
The Nightmare Before Christmas, directed by Henry Selick
What happens when holiday celebrations collide? Find out in this incredible stop motion animated film where Halloween Town is a dream world filled with citizens such as deformed monsters, ghosts, ghouls, goblins, vampires, werewolves and witches. Jack Skellington (The Pumpkin King) leads them in organizing the annual Halloween holiday, but he has grown tired of the same routine year after year. Wandering dejectedly in the forest outside the cemetery, he accidentally opens a portal to “Christmas Town”, whose residents are charged with organizing the annual Christmas holiday, under the guidance of Santa Claus. Impressed by the feeling and style of Christmas, Jack announces that they will take over Christmas.
It’s A Wonderful Life, directed by Frank Capra
George Bailey, a man who has given up his dreams in order to help others and whose imminent suicide on Christmas Eve (that dark undertone once again) brings about the intervention of his guardian angel, Clarence Odbody. Clarence shows George all the lives he has touched and how different life in his community of Bedford Falls would be had he never been born. Despite initially performing poorly at the box office due to high production costs and stiff competition at the time of its release, it is considered one of the most critically acclaimed films ever made. It was nominated for five Oscars and has been recognized by the American Film Institute as one of the 100 best American films ever made.
The Polar Express, directed by Robert Zemeckis
As well as being based on a gorgeous book, this is a 2004 motion capture computer-animated fantasy film that featured human characters animated using live action performance capture technique, with the exception of the waiters who dispense hot chocolate on the train, because their feats were impossible for live actors to achieve. It was one of the first to do so and according to the 2006 Guinness World Book of Records is the first all-digital capture film. As the story starts off, a young boy, who used to adore Christmas, hears a train whistle roar. To his astonishment, he finds the train is waiting for him. He sees a conductor who then proceeds to look up at his window. He runs downstairs and goes outside. The conductor explains the train is called the Polar Express, and is journeying to the North Pole. The boy then boards the train, which is filled with chocolate and candy, as well as many other children in their pajamas. It’s a truly lovely story with a very famous and very moving last line.
Love Actually, directed by Richard Curtis
We adore this film because it is everything an ensemble cast film should be. It’s funny, wry, poignant and heartwarming. The film opens with one of the loveliest messages, like, ever:
The film then follows ten different storylines about varying stages of love. It’s pretty cute and fills you with warm fuzzies.
Silver & Gold: Songs for Christmas, Sufjan Stevens
If you’re looking for a marathon of Christmas music, then this is the album for you. The 59 tracks stretch across nearly three hours, so it’s not for the faint hearted. For more than one reason. The album isn’t all happiness and joy. About a third of the tracks are Sufjan originals, and the music ranges from reverent, to intergalactic, to angelic, to positively looney. Which really, when you think about it, is what Christmas is all about.
A Christmas Together, John Denver and the Muppets
This is the Christmas album of my childhood. Without fail, (and to my parents despair) when I was asked to choose the music it was always, always this album. Why? Because it’s the Muppets and Christmas Carols, two of my favourite things. Miss Piggy always made me giggle and the whole album is the perfect combination of silly and moving. John Denver singing ‘The Peace Carol’ will break your heart a lil bit. Sadly, nay, tragically, the library doesn’t have this album. BUT! Never fear, it’s all on YouTube 🙂
Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album Volume 2
Amongst all of Glee‘s music albums, it’s really no surprise that there are Christmas ones. Three in fact, and a fourth coming this year. The second one (in my humble opinion) is the best one because it accompanies that wonderfully over the top season 3 themed episode: ‘Extraordinary Merry Christmas.’ Although that said, Kurt and Blaine’s ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ from the first Christmas album is also lovely.
Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?
Let it Snow : three holiday romances, John Green, Maureen Johnson, Lauren Myracle
For all your Northern Hemisphere Christmas stereotypes! Sparkling white snowdrifts, beautiful presents wrapped in ribbons, and multicolored lights glittering in the night through the falling snow. A Christmas Eve snowstorm transforms one small town into a romantic haven, the kind you see only in movies. Well, kinda. After all, a cold and wet hike from a stranded train through the middle of nowhere would not normally end with a delicious kiss from a charming stranger. And no one would think that a trip to the Waffle House through four feet of snow would lead to love with an old friend. Or that the way back to true love begins with a painfully early morning shift at Starbucks.
The Tricksters, Margaret Mahy
You know how much we love this right? We’ve mentioned it before as I’m sure you know due to your weekly devouring of our recommendations. The Tricksters is about the classic Kiwi family Christmas at the beach. Harry (real name, Ariadne) Hamilton is seventeen years old and caught between her two older, more exciting (she feels) siblings and two much younger ones. Feeling alone in a large family she spends her time writing. This Christmas however, the family is joined by three fascinating but rather sinister brothers and Harry finds her stories and reality blurring together in an alarmingly complex way.
We hope that helps you get into the Chrismukkah spirit 🙂 Points to anyone who convinces their parents to give them eight days of presents followed by one day of many presents! Have a wonderful holiday everyone!