This is, hands down, my favourite time of year, so I was very, very excited to come across Marg and Kailana's awesome annual Virtual Advent Tour, and even more thrilled when they let me sign up to participate (an author sneaking in amongst the bloggers, here :-)
Every year, come the first of December, my family lets out a collective groan as I begin to haul out my collection of holiday films. There used to be an unwritten rule in our house that only Christmas DVDs and videos got played in the few weeks before the holiday, but over the past few years that's been relaxed a bit.
Still, there are films without which Christmas just doesn't seem to be Christmas, for me, so I watch them each year—on my own, if I have to. Apart from the more well-known ones, like A Charlie Brown Christmas, the black-and-white original Miracle on 34th Street, How the Grinch Stole Christmas (which I never actually saw as a child, believe it or not, but fell in love with in my twenties), and the classic Alastair Sim version of Scrooge, retitled A Christmas Carol for us North Americans (which I still watch every Christmas Eve, in keeping with our family's long tradition), I have some that have become my special favourites...
In 1978 I was twelve and already a sucker for romance, and I fell in love with the made-for-TV film The Gift of Love, starring a young Marie Osmond and Timothy Bottoms in a story inspired by O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi". I watch it each year for its sweetness, its shameless romance, and its message that love truly is the best and bravest gift that we can give each other. (And as a bonus, you get to see a young James Woods before he started playing evil bad guys...)
A few years before that, while visiting my grandparents for our annual pre-Christmas Christmas dinner, I had snuggled with my family in my Grampa's den, with its wood-panelled walls and slowly ticking clocks, the organ and the colour console television set (we only had a black and white set at our own house, in those days) and watched enthralled as Albert Finney scowled and danced and made me cry in Scrooge, the musical.
I remembered it for years until, in 1983, when after living in Korea for two years we moved to Texas, we saw it listed in our TV guide and bought a tape so we could have our own recording of it (no such thing as Netflix, way back then). That tape was worn through by the time I found a proper copy I could buy, but I can watch this one a hundred times and never tire of seeing Anton Rogers sing and dance his way through "Thank You Very Much". It holds up well, and never fails to make me cry.
While You Were Sleeping makes me cry, too, but in a good way. My sister introduced me to this film when I was staying with her one year. I was single then, and something in this film just struck a chord with me—the whole idea of loneliness and wanting to find somebody to share your Christmas with—I just connected with the character of Lucy. And although I'm not alone now, this is still a favourite film of mine to watch each year. Is anything more perfect than the moment that Bill Pullman gives her Florence? I don't think so. And this movie doesn't only make me cry, it makes me laugh. Out loud, in places, which is always a good thing.
Not being alone means I've had to expand my traditions a little. One year, after suffering through yet another of my Christmas Eve playings of the old Alastair Sim Scrooge, my husband got up from the sofa and put in his own movie: Die Hard. When I raised an eyebrow, he said, "It's a Christmas movie, too." And he was absolutely right. It is. So every year now, once the kids have gone to bed, we watch Bruce Willis battle Alan Rickman. Because nothing's quite as Christmassy as having a machine gun. Ho, ho, ho.
Finally, it's not exactly a movie, but it's always at the heart of my Christmas video viewing: Leo Buscaglia's Stories of Christmas Love. I first saw this on PBS years and years ago, and each year I use it to centre myself in the midst of the holiday chaos; to remind me what Christmas is really about. Here's a taste of it:
So there you are: my own favourite selection of holiday films. What are yours?