A cinematic Christmas

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October 10, 2013 by nooffensebut

I forgot all about Sandra Bullock.

Not that she exists, though I confess she hasn’t been uppermost on my mind of late.

I forgot that shortly after Ms. Bullock was named America’s newest sweetheart for driving the heck out of a bus and keeping a straight face while talking to Keanu Reeves, she starred in a lovely little holiday time film: “While You Were Sleeping.”

You see, seasonal movies have always been an important part of my December.

In my family, Thanksgiving is the big holiday, so December’s obligations don’t extend much further than expedited deadlines at work and remembering to make time to go to the post office (apologies to those whose gifts will be late this year).

In the years since I left home, I’ve developed a number of my own quiet little holiday season traditions: a pot of Italian-inspired vegetable soup, a reading of Rumer Godden’s “The Story of Holly and Ivy” and a stack of holiday movies.

There’s little I like more in these weeks than curling up on the couch with a cup of tea and losing myself in two hours of cinematic holiday claptrap. So far, Joe and I have worked our way through “Home Alone,” “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” “Holiday Inn,” “The Family Stone,” “The Bells of St. Mary’s,” “The Polar Express,” “In Bruges” and “Joyeux Noel,” among others, not to mention various holiday episodes of television shows on DVD and Netflix.

According to a fun quiz on amctv.com, if my life were a Christmas movie, it would be “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Apparently, a random algorithm either thinks I’m extremely lucky or thinks I seem like someone who is inclined to try to jump off a bridge. I can confirm that the truth lies in the former assumption, not in the latter. This result pleased me as an annual viewing of Frank Capra’s beloved classic is the holiday tradition I’ve come to hold most sacred.

Besides swooning at the moment where George Bailey promises to lasso the moon for Mary, I think my favorite thing about “It’s a Wonderful Life” is the manner in which a whole town comes together for one person. It reminds me that we actually are capable of moments of selflessness and that communities of people can be greater than the sum of their parts.

I view this film with a sense of ritual each year: It must begin at the first moment of Dec. 25 and must be accompanied by an appropriate hot drink. Cozy holiday pajamas are mandatory. There are to be no interruptions or distractions. Bedtime comes immediately after the end credits. Last year, Joe and I stayed on the phone throughout the entire film. This year, he is here with me, which is far more pleasant.

He has to work the morning of the 25th, so I’ll be on my own to enjoy “Miracle on 34th Street,” which I haven’t actually seen in years, and “Love, Actually,” which is another annual viewing.

The evening will involve two other traditions — Chinese food and a trip to the cinema — and will end with a viewing of “Little Women,” a sentimental favorite of mine. My beloved, I imagine, will probably pay more attention to catching up on the news online, and Santa’s elves willing, I’ll be gracious and patient enough to remember that he is not female and therefore is probably less interested than I in a film based on a Louisa May Alcott book.

Then in the week that follows, most will go away again until next year comes around. But first, before 2012 arrives, there’s one more tradition to which we must adhere: “The Sound of Music.”

Next year, I’ll be sure to add “While You Were Sleeping” to my holiday movie list and remind myself of what heartfelt lessons can be learned from pretending to be engaged to a guy in a coma.

Originally published Dec. 23, 2011 in the Chattanooga Times Free Press

Reader Note:

Hi, Holly,
Your Christmas traditions sound wonderfully uncomplicated.Little Women is my all-time favorite book, and I’m glad to see that one in your movie list.  Don’t tell (her son, my colleague) you know this, but when he was on a mission to make lots of points as an accelerated reader in middle school, we read the book aloud with his little brother.  They grudgingly admitted it was “pretty good.”
Have a wonderful holiday!


Did your Mom name you w/Christmas in mind??
I have written to you before before my daughter had her baby in Sept; she’s a vegetarian and had her child (CA style – at home).  Anyway you calmed my fears and sent me a lovely note w/more recipes suggestions.
What about I think its called “The Holiday” maybe w/Cruz, Jude Law, the woman from Titanic and “Joe Blow”; it is pretty cute.  Anyway Love your column, hope that pest quit writing you or at least gave you his/her name and Have a Very Merry and Happy New Year!!

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