It’s been two months now, since Christmas trees, boxes wrapped in paper and tons of two-colour glitter became the main elements of our shopping experience. I’m not sure how it works in other countries, but in Poland owners would start decorating their shops’ displays mid-October. I once saw someone putting up Christmas decorations in late September.
But at last, it’s right around the corner. Christmas, I mean. This year's "holiday spirit" might have been trampled down a little, with malls closing down and Christmas carols playing a little quieter, but there is one thing that you can do to dip into the merriness of winter holidays. Well, two things: Books and Movies.
10 Books That Will Help You Get Into Holiday Spirit
This list is mainly based on what I read, plus I threw in a few books that are on my “to-do” list. Obviously, there are tons of novels and short stories that I haven’t included, so make sure to comment below with your Christmas favourites.
1. Harry Potter series (J.K. Rowling)
I got my first two Harry Potter books for Christmas many years ago. I spent the whole night reading them. My grandma was genuinely shocked that a 12-year-old pulled an all-nighter to read a book. If someone told me today that I could spend my winter holidays in Hogwarts, I would be packed and out the door in 5 minutes. Christmas is so beautifully described in Harry Potter and so full of real magic, I just can’t imagine better book series for this time of the year.
2. Hogfather (T. Pratchett)
I’m a huge fan of Terry Pratchett. I even managed to get his autograph. Hogfather is not a classic Christmas story, I can tell you that much. But if you like a good laugh with a dash of fantasy, you will absolutely love this one. On a side note, have you ever wondered if there is a hangover god you could blame for all your headaches?
3. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis)
I’m really ashamed to admit, but this is one of the books I haven’t read. As a child, I absolutely loved the BBC miniseries (I’ll tell you more at the end of this blogpost), but for some reason, I just never read The Chronicles of Narnia! You will be relieved to know that I might do it this year because I just got a copy.
4. The Snow Queen (H.C. Andersen)
I don’t know anyone who hadn’t heard about this fairy tale in one way or another - most of us read it in a slightly toned-down version, less brutal than the original. The story explains why some people turn evil and gives an easy way of changing them back to good. The solution is, you guessed it, love. The original tale is much more Christian than I remember, but it will be perfect for those of you who celebrate Christmas as a religious event.
5. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
For me, “Anne of Green Gables”, along with all of the other Lucy Maud Montgomery books, will always be the summer literature and when I close my eyes, I can see the wheat swayed by the wind over Prince Edward Island. However, while doing the research for this blogpost, I came across a short story about Anne that was specifically written with winter holidays in mind. It’s called “Christmas with Anne and Other Holiday Stories”, and I haven’t read it yet, but I have a feeling that the creators of “Anne with an E” did.
6. Winternight trilogy (K. Arden)
Arden's trilogy is a perfect read for those of you who are interested in the Slavic and ruthenian culture. It's a story about a young girl discovering that she’s the missing link between the pagan divinities and the new Christian world. It’s full of magic, medieval politics and forbidden love between a human and a snow demon. This is one of these stories that make you feel sad when you finish reading, because you don’t want to come back from the magical realm.
7. A Little Princess (F.H. Burnett)
If you're the 90's kid, you might remember “A Little Princes” as one of the few anime series available on public TV. I can still recall the intro song. Given the number of books I read back then, I obviously read this one too. Sara Crewe, the eponymous princess, is one of the childhood heroes every young girl should have - kind-hearted, determined and not at all spoiled despite being the heiress to quite a fortune. The tale is very dark and dramatic for a children’s book, but ends well and definitely teaches some lessons.
8. Moominland Midwinter (T. Jansson)
Moomins are cheerful trolls that hold some resemblance to hippos. Now, if you don’t know them yet, you might wanna start with some other of Tove Janson's stories, because “Moominland Midwinter” is the darkest one she wrote. Moomintroll wakes up in the middle of winter and sees Moominvalley covered with a blanket of snow and almost completely deserted. It’s not the world he knows, but luckily there happens to be Little My to lift his spirits a bit. That being said, this part of Moomins’ adventures is actually pretty basic, when you consider other books from the series to be kinda… doped.
9. His Dark Materials trilogy (P. Pullman)
The story about Lyra Silvertongue and Will Parry might not be a classic Christmas tale, but it contains this special kind of magic we all want in our life. It’s a brilliant multilevel story that carries much more than interesting characters and skilful narration. Below the bone structure of fantasy literature, there are references to philosophy and religion, presented in a way that pushes us to think, not to absorb. I revisited Pullman’s trilogy last year when HBO released it as the new BBC series - it’s great, so check it out!
10. Letters from Father Christmas (J.R.R. Tolkien)
I’ve read most of Tolkien's books, but I haven’t heard about this one until now. It’s a series of letters written and illustrated by Tolkien, published for the third anniversary of his death. There are no hobbits and magical rings in this one, just the letters written from the point of view of Father Christmas or his elvish secretary. But I’m definitely gonna check this one out to enjoy a little bit of Tolkien’s magic this Holiday season.
10 Movies That Are the All-Times Christmas Classics
I watched every movie listed below, some of them long ago. But they all left a big enough impression to end up on the list, even if I hardly remember some of them. Let me know if you have your own Christmas favourites that didn't make my list.
1. Home Alone (1990) and Home Alone 2 (1992)
Let’s start from the ultimate Christmas classics. I don’t know anyone over the age of 4 who hasn't watched it at least once. “Home Alone” and “Home Alone 2” are two brilliantly told stories about a seven-year-old who proves to be more resourceful than two minor thieves. Plus everything is immersed in the winter wonderland and full of Holiday spirit. Fun fact, in 2010 one of the Polish broadcasters decided they won’t include Home Alone in their Christmas schedule. They got over 90K people complaining about it on Facebook and never made that mistake again.
2. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
This movie connects Halloween with Christmas in a rather unique way. Jack Skellington is the “Pumpkin King” of Halloween Town, but he grows weary of celebrating All Hallows Eve over and over again. One day he discovers a portal to Christmas Town, and after visiting the charming wintery village, he decides to take over Santa’s gift delivering duties. In short, it’s a story about almost ruining the Holidays by loving them too much. Does it sound familiar?
3. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)
One of those dim-witted comedies with Chevy Chase that everyone saw, but nobody admits it. The movie tells the story of the Griswold family’s attempt at creating a perfect holiday celebration. It gathers most of the classic American Christmas must-haves: the Christmas tree that doesn’t fit in the house, 25 thousand twinkle lights tah cause electrocution and mayhem, not to mention distant relatives showing up uninvited. If you think your family events are always a disaster, this movie will surely light up your mood.
4. Love Actually (2003)
Another classic that everybody at least heard about. Even if you somehow haven’t seen the movie, you surely know the scene where Andrew Lincoln comes to Keira Knightley with a bunch of paper boards, one of which states “To me you are perfect”. But the movie is so much more: a dancing British prime minister falling in love with one of his employees, a young boy learning how to be a drummer to impress a girl and Bill Nighy changing a well-known love song into a seasonal disaster. If you haven’t seen it, now’s your chance.
5. Bridget Jones Diary (2001)
Surprisingly, I didn’t find Bridget on any of the-best-Christmas-movies-of-all-times lists I checked while doing my research, and I really feel like it belongs on one of them. There are New Year’s resolutions, ugly Christmas sweaters and relatives that make you feel bad about your life. Tell me none of these rings a family-holidays-bell. Bridget Jones is a character that makes you look at your own mishaps with a little more distance and humour. And if this doesn’t convince you, I have two words for you: Colin Firth.
6. Serendipity (2001)
When we were visiting New York with Mat a few years ago, I literally dragged him to Serendipity 3 for a Frrrozen Hot Chocolate. It was raining and kinda cold outside, so anything frozen was generally a bad idea, but well, I had to try the famous dessert. The same sweet treat has been shared by the main characters in a beautiful love story from 2001. Do you believe in fate? If you do, be careful, ‘cos you might end up on a Rockefeller ice skating rink with just one glove.
7. The Holiday (2006)
I’m not a fan of the winter. Well, let’s face it, I hate cold, snow and everything that’s far from civilization, but if I had to pick one house from “The Holiday” to spend Christmas in, it would still be the countryside cottage. The movie is not my favourite seasonal classic, but Mat seems to love it, so I learned to accept it. The story is kinda nice, but if I was the casting director, only Kate Winslet would keep her job.
8. The Santa Clause (1994)
Do you believe in Santa? Even if you stopped writing letters ages ago and you know for sure it’s your family who put the presents under the tree, it never hurts to add a little magic to your Christmas. “The Santa Clause” is a story about preserving the beliefs and saving your inner child. Or your actual child, if you have one. I remember watching this Christmas comedy as a kid, and I really enjoyed it, so I hope you’ll like it too.
9. Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)
One of my early childhood Holiday memories is watching old Mickey Mouse animations on Christmas Eve. This particular one is Disney’s attempt at Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, so if you’re not big on reading 19th-century novels, this might be your chance to familiarize with this classic story. But there were many more of these animations, some of them even black and white. And they were as essential to my Christmases as presents and holiday food.
10. Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
That’s probably the most often remade Christmas movie out there. Starting from 1947 there were five big and small screen versions of it. However, the 1994 version is the best one, in my opinion. It’s another story proving the importance of Christmas beliefs - this time Santa is on criminal trial! That being said, this is an American Holiday feature that is filled with warmth and Christmas magic. I think I may wanna rewatch it this year.
As an extra point: The Chronicles of Narnia - BBC mini series (1988-1990)
Despite better visual effects in the 2005 Hollywood production, I still love the old BBC version so much more. Year by year I waited for the Holidays to arrive, so I could rewatch the series again. If you’re looking for something delightful and not too flashy, make sure to check out this British miniseries.
I hope you enjoyed my Christmas books and movies catalog. If you need more of the Holiday spirit in your life, make sure to check Oh! So POP seasonal shirts and jumpers.
Merry Christmas! :)