“Pop Culture Christmas” – The Staff Discusses Their Favorite Holiday Entertainment!

Welcome back to the site for what is starting to become a tradition of sorts – getting into the holiday spirit. Back in October, we got into the Halloween spirit and in November we shared some Thanksgiving gratitude. So of course we had to celebrate all of the many wonderful holidays in December! For this post, we decided to share with you some of our favorite holiday pop culture traditions – the movies and specials we love watching, the music we love listening to and whatever else may come to mind. Be sure to let us know if we have any in common and maybe there’s even something in here you’ll try this year or in year’s to come! Thanks not only for checking this out but also for your continued support of the site. You’re the reason we get to keep living our dream. Happy Holidays everyone! – Andrew


Lindsay : Christmas has always been a special time of year for me. My favourite part of the holidays growing up was the Christmas concert at our school. In between our turn onstage, students would gather in the classrooms, corralled by over-caffeinated and underpaid teachers, and fed cocoa and cookies to go along with the TV Christmas specials, meant to keep us from running amok in the hallways — Mickey’s Christmas Carol or A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Care Bears’ Nutcracker Suite, or the old Rankin & Bass Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Watching these films brings me right back to elementary school and those cold and snowy nights when it seemed my whole world and everyone in it was inside the walls of the school gymnasium. It’s simply not Christmas without watching these specials, usually all in one sitting, drinking cocoa and eating cookies from a Christmas cookie tin…just like I did all those years ago.

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Rob: Christmas is funny to me. It has all of the aesthetics I can get behind. I’m not immune to the nostalgic warmth it conjures, but I dread family gatherings, the planning alone. White elephants? Secret Santas? Sheesh! I dread its targeted television commercials starting as early as late October. I have been rerouted (long story) to a cabin in Ruidoso, NM called “Tis Christmas House” in the heat of July. Yes, it is decorated for Christmas yearlong. Except for the story of the moment, I’m not detecting any residual trauma. I have a boss who whistles “Jingle Bells” year-round. Any resounding warmth emanates from my childhood in the 80’s and 90’s, so my list reads like an Alamo Drafthouse/Mondo theater calendar in December—Die Hard, Gremlins, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, et al. Where do we start? Having survived the family Thanksgiving of the day, we return home and pull out the fake narrow tree we got on discount in March of whatever year for $19. I tape the sucker down with duct tape to a baseboard as our cats pitter patter downstairs with eyes all a-saucer at this once-a-year temptation, and that’s when my wife and I secure it promptly with hanging wire to the wall. But this is wonderful, remember? The first carton of eggnog is loosed right after that good shot of rum, and our lips do not touch that glass until the needle lands on Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas vinyl. Still, there is a Christmas special that remains as a vision from my youth and one I enjoy revisiting via Youtube clips. (I should probably remedy this with a hardcopy soon). It is Will Vinton’s Claymation Christmas Special. The special pings off every Christmas emotion you could want in the caroling nature of the characters tinged with silly humor: “Here we come a waffling …” For all of its jazzed-up jokiness, audiences are given a transfixing and reverent moment in the animation for “Joy to the World.” Visiting those shorts and indeed A Charlie Brown Christmas probably work best to get me into the spirit. My viewing of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer gob-smacked me with its previously undetected misogyny a year or two ago. It doesn’t all hold the same shelf-life, but for all of its familial obstacles and commercial strangulation, I enjoy the season, the weather, and the memories it surfaces.

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Laura : I do love Christmas. Certainly more since my son came along as he definitely brings joy to the world. We always watch The Snowman on Christmas Eve night and The Gruffalo first thing on Christmas morning whilst he’s opening his stocking. Visiting relatives is always ‘interesting’ and noisy but fun, and once all the driving and delivering presents to the masses on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day morning is done the festive cheer (i.e. drinking) starts for me. Once dinner is demolished and presents are opened it is time for my most favourite Christmas movie of all, Planes, Trains and Automobiles. I have loved Steve Martin and John Candy movies since I was a kid and this film in particular is a hilarious, touching and timeless classic. When that’s done it’s time for Scrooged, because who doesn’t love Bill Murray? No matter how many times I watch both these films I always end up bawling my eyes out. But it’s Boxing Day that is actually my favourite day of the Holiday. It is my one day just spent doing nothing but lazing around in my pajamas drinking Bucks Fizz and eating chocolate all day long. It’s Footie day here in the UK which means that I get to run away and play with all my new toys! Ok, maybe not toys but since Twin Peaks made its return I have been a much easier person to buy for, and my Owl Cave tends to have a few new admissions at this time of year, I am a very lucky girl! All the while I’ll be watching my favourite Christmas comedy, The Office Christmas Special (UK version).  It was in this episode that Tim, the sweet beloved, wickedly funny, paper salesman and Dawn, the cute, unappreciated and long suffering office Receptionist, finally kiss at the end of the Christmas Party after years of secret yearning. Yes I’m bawling again. Every single time.  So it seems my Christmas is full of tears! but happy tears and a warm heart.

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Jon Sheasby: One of my biggest childhood favourites was Tim Allen. Luckily, I don’t really have to have an opinion on his political stance as I’m from the UK, but as an entertainer, he is an all-time great. His ’90s filmography dominated the decade in which I was born, and one show, in particular, gave me many hours of laughter: Home Improvement. The Christmas episodes, specifically, featured some of the shows greatest moments and they still make me laugh every time I pop in those DVDs. It fills me with joy, seeing Tim and the Taylor family go to extraordinary lengths every year just to win a neighborhood decoration contest. The chaos, absurdity and love shown in those episodes perfectly encapsulate Christmas. I love Christmas and I love the ridiculousness of a Taylor family Christmas, but for reasons of safety, I’ll stick with the DVDs.

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JC :  Christmas has always been one of my favorite holidays.  When you’re a kid it’s all about Santa and “What’s he going to bring me?”  Then, as you grow older, there’s a Grinch like phase, where the idea of spending an extended period of time with family is not unlike getting a tooth pulled.  Finally the spirit hits you once again, most of the time it’s either when you’re around someone’s children or your own, and you see that excitement and realize what the season is truly about, taking time to be with the ones we love and remembering to be kind and revel in the glory of the Christmas spirit.

One constant for me has been the various versions of Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol. The one version that I have to watch every year is the musical version, Scrooge.  Besides the wonderful message of it’s never too late, and you should be full of Christmas cheer all the year round, it’s got some catchy musical numbers and the best Scrooge ever in Albert Finney.  To me, this version captures the meaning better than any of the other versions.  It really showcases the relationships between Scrooge and Cratchit, his nephew Fred, and the rest of the townspeople.  It also ends in a big, snazzy musical number with Scrooge himself as Santa Claus.  Every year, I turn on my Christmas tree so that is the only light in the room, put on Scrooge, and snuggle under the blanket with some hot cocoa (possibly with a nip of some peppermint schnapps) and sing along to Thank You Very Much!

A Christmas Carol 1938 title card


Ali: I can’t get in to the Christmas spirit without music. I’m not one of those people that starts blasting “All I Want For Christmas Is You” the day after Thanksgiving, but the Christmas season would mean nothing to me without music in the air. It’s festive and it gives me energy, but it goes deeper than that. To me, Christmas music represents a piece of my own history. We have, in my family, something called “The Christmas Tape.” It was given this name because—and I’m dating myself here—it existed for many, many years of my childhood as a cassette tape. It actually dates back even further and was originally made on a reel-to-reel (look it up, kids). This is a mix my dad made many decades ago and I can’t remember a Christmas without it. The original version of “The Christmas Tape” is 21 songs, mostly of the Classic-Rock-Christmas variety (ex. Elvis, Springsteen, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Band, etc.). It has been expanded to 27 songs and remastered by my audiophile father over the years, but “The Christmas Tape”—and we still call it “The Christmas Tape” even though it’s all digital now—is basically the same as it was back when I still believed in Santa Claus. It is as much a part of my Christmas experience as buying the tree and decorating the house and stressing about presents and wrapping until my back gives out.

Of course, I don’t exclusively listen to “The Christmas Tape” (although I do go through it at least 30 times a season). There are other songs (like the aforementioned Mariah Carey banger) that are crucial to my Christmas experience. I also get down on some jazzier Christmas tunes in the form of Count Basie Orchestra, Harry Connick, Jr., Tony Bennett, and Michael Bublé. And don’t get me started on 80s and 90s Pop Christmas tunes (which my dad HATES and I enjoy torturing him with every Christmas). Basically, if it’s Christmas themed, I’ll play it in my house during the holidays. And I need that music in the air, because I host my family for Christmas every year and I always, without fail, reach a point where I just want to scream and cry and rage-quit Christmas. But music always manages to get me back on track so I can get it all done. It usually turns out pretty well, and I think it’s safe to say that “The Christmas Tape” is responsible for at least 50% of my holiday success.

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Eileen: As far as music goes, nothing puts me in the Christmas Spirit like The Nutcracker Suite. I’ve had my very own CD of it since I was three and I’ve never had a Christmas go by where I didn’t listen and pretend pirouette (yes even this year) while decorating the house as I listened. For decorating cookies, there’s nothing better than a little Twila Paris or Dolly Parton and Kenny Rodgers. Mannheim Steamroller to is the most iconic sound of Christmas in my household, particularly their rendition of my favourite carol, God Rest Ye Merry, Gentleman. I curl up with a good book and a cup of tea by the fire and the Christmas Tree and it’s about as perfect as this season can get.

As for film, I could go traditional here easily. Stop Motion Rudolph, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Jack Frost, A Charlie Brown Christmas. Or the more modern, The Santa Clause, Silver Bells and Home Alone. I could go classic: the Bishop’s Wife, Miracle on 34th Street, White Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life. All of them a beloved in my home, but instead, I’m going to talk about something a bit silly to perhaps anyone but me. I associate televisions shows with the time of year when I watched them. Twin Peaks for me is an October season show, and for Christmas, my choice is the Two Part Finale of BBC’s Merlin, Diamond of the Day which aired December 24th 2012, which is potentially the single most depressing season finale I’ve ever seen. And that’s including Twin Peaks! I generally binge all five seasons of the show during the month of December if I have the opportunity. While not Christmassy in theme, watching Arthur, Merlin, Guinevere and company fight for the ideals of Camelot always puts me in the right mood for holiday cheer.

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4 Replies to ““Pop Culture Christmas” – The Staff Discusses Their Favorite Holiday Entertainment!”

  1. I try to watch the movies people don’t remember as being Christmas films. Films like Eyes Wide Shut, Hardware, Gremlins, and Brazil. Brazil is my favorite movie but features Santa Claus. Wasn’t Plains, Trains and Automobiles about Thanksgiving?

    Does anyone else watch any Christmas movies off the radar? I was thinking Guy Maddin had one but maybe not.

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