Monday, December 7, 2009

I Heart Christmas

Since I work in retail, it would be logical to assume that I am less than fond of Christmas. Nothing could be farther from the truth, however. While working retail during the Christmas season is less than wonderful, I still love the holiday season. I have so many wonderful memories of holiday traditions and fun times around Christmas and New Years!

Part of these memories involve classic Christmas specials, movies, and books. So here are my top five favorite lists for Christmas. Check 'em twice!

Top Five Christmas Movies:

5. Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
This film combines two of my favorite things: Muppets and Dicken's A Christmas Carol. Michael Caine makes a great Ebeneezer Scrooge and all of the classic Muppets make appearances. The film is surprising faithful to the story and is made all the better by the sharp wit of the Jim Henson team.

4. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
This classic story has a beautiful message: "No man is poor who has friends." Beautifully acted by Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, and Henry Travers, it is truly what Christmas is all about . . . friends, family, and giving to others.

3. A Christmas Carol (1984)
Although the Alastir Sim version is traditionally viewed to be the definitive adaptation, I prefer the 1984 version starring George C. Scott. Exceptionally true to the original story, this version has some of my favorite moments, including the introduction of Ignorance and Want (a chilling moment befitting a good ghost story) and Marley showing Scrooge the destitute woman and child outside his home. Scott is excellent as a gruff and unforgiving Scrooge and Frank Finlay makes for a truly terrifying Marley. If you adore the original text as I do, you will love this version.

2. Love Actually (2003)
Though most view this as a non-holiday movie, it is set mostly at Christmastime and it is one of my favorites. It never fails to put me in a good mood!

1. Scrooged (1988)
Yet another version of Dicken's immortal classic. While it is the least faithful of the adaptations I have listed, it's one of the best. It's hilarious, moving, and full of memorable (and quotable!) moments. Bill Murray, Bobcat Goldthwait, Carol Kane, and David Johansen make this 1988 film a classic.

Top Five Favorite Christmas Specials:

5. Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983)
Like the Muppet Christmas Carol, the fun of Mickey's Christmas Carol is seeing many classic Disney characters (Goofy as Marley, Jiminy Cricket as the Ghost of Christmas Past, and Willie the Giant as the Ghost of Christmas Present, just to name a few) as characters in the story. One of my childhood favorites!

4. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
Although the Rankin-Bass stop-motion features can be a little unnerving at times, they are still classics. What makes Rudolph so special are the memorable songs ("Holly Jolly Christmas", "Silver and Gold", etc.), especially "We're a Couple of Misfits" (which I identified with even as a child), and . . . the Bumble!

3. The Snowman (1982)
With no dialouge, The Snowman is amazing in its effectiveness. The music is beautiful, as is the the imagery of a boy and his magic snowman!

2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
This special is dear to my heart. It was a part of every Christmas since I was born and relatives called me Cindy Lou Who because I resembled the small Who in the cartoon. Like It's a Wonderful Life, this one is all about the Christmas spirit.

1. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
I have always felt a kinship with Charlie Brown, from his disastrous Halloween costume ("I got a rock.") to the sad little tree he picks out in this Christmas special. When I think of Christmas I always think of the Peanuts singing, their faces raised to the sky and their mouths in perfect Os.

Top Five Holiday Books:

5. Twas the Night Before Christmas (2002)
Clement C. Moore's classic poem is brought vividly to life by the beautifully detailed illustrations by Mary Engelbreit. It is a lovely Christmas keepsake that subsequent generations can enjoy.

4. The Little Match Girl (1987)
One of my favorite Hans Christian Anderson tales, with beautiful illustratrions by Rachel Isadora. A poingant and lovely holiday tale.

3. Bialosky's Christmas (1984)
A childhood favorite showing Bialosky Bear getting ready for his Christmas party. I loved this one because Bialosky had many of the same traditions that my family did.

2. The Best Christmas Pagent Ever (1988)
Barbara Robinson's amusing tale of a group of wild, underprivilege children learning the story of Christmas. This one was so great because it was realistic. Definitely a break from the more sickeningly sweet Christmas fare.

1. A Christmas Carol (1843)
You've probably noticed a theme in my favorites. I have loved Dicken's A Christmas Carol for as long as I can remember. We read the book every year at Christmas and for several years in a row saw wonderful productions performed by the Omaha Community Playhouse. I have seen almost all the versions of this classic tale, but the original text still remains my favorite. Dickens is a wonderful writer with many classics to his name, but this is one of his best beloved. If you have not read it, I highly suggest you do so as soon as possible. Make it one of your new Christmas traditions!

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