'Tis the season for a full blast of holiday films


The holiday season brings options galore when it comes to watching films with the theme of the season, whether it's something nostalgic or a Hallmark channel movie (or various clones of).

Holiday traditions have long held a special place in my heart. So much, in fact, I went and wrote an entire novella about the Christmas holiday, in which some of these traditions made appearances.

One tradition not explored was the watching of holiday films and Christmas specials. (Though I did some exploring a few years back, with an online tournament of holiday films a few years back).

Back in the day, as the hip kids say, the regular yearly rotation consisted of these five All-Stars: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Mickey's Christmas Carol, A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.

A Christmas Story entered the Hall of Fame a bit later for me in life. Though a hit right off the bat, it wasn't until the 24-hour showings began where it really took hold as part of a yearly tradition. Ernest Saves Christmas, the first two Home Alone films, The Santa Clause, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and Santa Claus: The Movie (with John Lithgow and Dudley Moore) were all favorites of mine that entered the rotation of films I try to watch each year, which is now an ever-growing list.

Movies of the holiday season

Watching films during the holiday season, especially the aforementioned, takes me back to an age of wonderment and magic. These are among the films/specials I watch every year, though for a time in my late teens and into my 20s, focus was elsewhere and many of these fell to the wayside. Attempts would be made to watch these films but unless you had cable or the film on VHS or DVD (or LaserDisc, if really lucky), you'd just have to hope you could catch it when it was one.

Streaming services, it turns out, are a blessing and a curse.

Then, into my late-20s and early 30s, a new tradition took hold. Many Christmases during this time were spent away from home. So, Christmas Eve was spent at the bar with friends. Upon returning home, I'd settle in with a drunken view of Bad Santa. The film continues to be part of the yearly traditions, sans the alcohol-induced Christmas Eves.

There is a tendency to tie back many of these movies to memories of youth (or, in the case of Bad Santa, happy times spent with friends). Or, as reminders of events or situations where first viewed. I can still remember seeing Santa Claus: The Movie with my family in theaters. (And, very loosely, the McDonald's commercials associated with the film.)

Since the days of lost youth, the holiday film yearly watchlist continues to grow. Some, I enjoy (Love Actually, Jingle Jangle, Happiest Season). Some, I am only kind of fond for, and they mostly serve as background noise (Christmas with the Kranks, Fred Claus). Some, land somewhere in between (Surviving Christmas, The Holiday).

While I do watch the occasional Hallmark Channel movie (or six), Die Hard does not make my annual viewing list. It's a fantastic film, and one I fall on the "Christmas movie" side of the debate but simply does not fit my fancy during the holiday season.

Classics, too, I had never seen before entered into the rotation in recent years. Films like March of the Wooden Soldiers, White Christmas and Meet Me in St. Louis

Nerdy in my nostalgia, I've created a list over at Letterboxd. And while it contains some television specials, it does not include a list of another favorite: Christmas themed television episode

Television of the holiday season

My list barely scrapes the entire library of Christmas and holiday (November/December) themed movies. I can only imagine the plethora of television episodes centered around the Christmas I don't watch on a year basis. 

Years ago, I wrote out a list of five favorite Christmas episodes. And lately, it's been a toss-up as to whether I even get to those or not (except Saved by the Bell. That's a guarantee. MeTv, Sunday mornings).

The original run of Full House, despite its popularity, had only three Christmas episodes. The Office had a Christmas episode in seven of their nine seasons, and Brain Baumgartner (Kevin) and Angela Kinsey (Angela) even attribute season two's special from saving the show from cancelation.

I also got into The Middle when it aired and not only do they have a Christmas episode all nine season, they also have Halloween and Thanksgiving.

Roseanne, Alf, I Love Lucy, and The Brady Bunch (plus A Very Brady Christmas) are all on the viewing agenda this time of year.

Top of the television list lately, however, is It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: A Very Sunny Christmas. This episode is required viewing and gets me laughing heartily, even after 13 years.

Whether it's a holiday classic, a Lifetime movie, a Christmas-themed ION weekend, or a hot, new title, plenty of options are to be had when it comes to holiday viewing. Perhaps you're an Eight Crazy Nights fan or enjoy Christmas Eve watching Gremlins. No matter your choice, even if it's taking a pass at the whole holiday film market, make it a fun one. 

Do you have a film, television special, or holiday-themed television episode you must watch every year? Feel free to comment!

photo credit: PublicDomainPictures