Just a quick post while we’re still enveloped in the limbo between two year-end holidays.

As with most of my friends and family, my Christmas tradition has evolved over the years to include the dedicated viewing of various motion pictures. Naturally, the collection is greater than the season permits, and so every year at least some of the holiday movies list remains unwatched. However, there are a handful of staples that always seem to make their way onto the docket and so I thought I’d share them in the spirit of the season.

Below please find a list of my top 5 Christmas movies:

5. Christmas Vacation (1989)

Hardly a surprise, this one is pretty common amongst my generation. Though not as funny or original as its predecessor Vacation (1983), there are simply too many quotable lines and notable connections to the Christmas tradition to be ignored. Specifically, it is Clark’s obsessive though genuine desire to manufacture a wonderful family Christmas, and the subsequent failure to do so that really strikes a chord with me.

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4. A Christmas Story (1983)

Again, no surprise here. The transgenerational qualities of this timeless classic are deserving of a place on anyone’s list. Enjoyable in my youth and still in adulthood, this one really has stood the test of time. I have always appreciated the laughter that bellows from my brother, his children, our father, his two brothers, and my grandfather as this Christmas masterpiece plays in the living room. My dad and his brothers can’t seem to separate their own young lives from the sepia tones of this wonderful film, demonstrating its close ties with the heart of Christmas in mid-20th Century Americana.

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3. Going My Way (1944)

Though easily deemed not a true Christmas movie, especially since it premiered in May of ’44, the sentiments within (family, charity, the opening of one’s heart), the presence of a terrific rendition of “Silent Night” by Bing and the boy’s choir, and the touching final scene on Christmas Eve wedged this one into my heart. It didn’t hurt that it is one of Dad’s favorites and it entered my lexicon at a very young age. Bing is kind of hollow and even-keeled throughout, tender and mild almost to a fault, but Barry Fitzgerald’s performance is nothing short of  spectacular, owning every big laugh in the movie. Of course, we can’t forget the catchy “Swingin’ on a Star” which more than makes up for the unfortunate title track.

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2. George C. Scott’s “A Christmas Carol” (1984)

Simply put, this is a must watch on my Christmas Eve. Stated in two earlier posts, A Christmas Carol is surely my favorite story of the season, and this one is hands down the best telling of it ever put to the screen (and believe me, I’ve seen them all). From the costumes, to the historic setting, to the preservation of key lines in the novel, to George’s uncommon but riveting performance as the old miser, this one simply takes the cake. With other notable performances from Frank Finlay, David Warner, Roger Reese, and Edward Woodward, this non-musical version is as good as gold and better.

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1. Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas (1977)

I was surprised in later life to find that this fantastic little tale lies off the beaten path for many in my generation. Through my own surmising, I’ve discovered that it comes down to whether you had HBO in the early 80’s to decide whether this one either warms the cockles of your heart or is completely unknown. Much to my enjoyment, we did, and Emmet Otter has ever since sat at the top of my Christmas viewing list. Almost entirely devoid of familiar Henson Muppets, the tiny cast and set created purely for this one short special is perhaps Henson’s most impressive venture. A navigable river on a studio set, boat-rowing Muppets, flying geese in formation, attention to detail rules this impressive creation. Having watched the “filming of,” the wonderment only grows as you see how it all came together. Add in some of the greatest songs ever written by Paul Williams, original songs that were so familiar you were sure you’d heard them before,  and the unique twist on the traditional “Gift of the Magi” scenario and this one was destined to capture all the greatest things about Christmas and the joy that lies within.

So if any of these are new to you, hopefully you’ll consider watching them between now and next December. I’m sure many of you have your own staples, I’m happy to hear what they might be. These are mine, and have been for some time, but I’m not so inflexible as to not be on the lookout for something else to capture my interest and promote the meaning of Christmas.

Again, warmest holiday wishes and may the new year bring you much luck and happiness.

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