From Scrooge to ‘Elf’ to ‘Nativity’ to ‘Wonderful’ to ‘Die Hard’: Our Favorite Christmas Movies/Specials (Because It’s Still Christmas!)

christmas-die-hard-wonderful-life-george-scott-christmas-carolMuch of the world considers Christmas to have ended at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 26. Oh, some decorations may stay up until New Year’s, but a drive down many suburban streets will find Christmas trees already dumped at the curb.

That is not the Catholic view. For us, Dec. 25 is the beginning of Christmastide, not the end.

The Octave of Christmas ends on Jan. 1, the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God (which is a Holy Day of Obligation — but this year, it’s on a Sunday, so that Mass will do double duty). Christmastide, though, continues through the Feast of the Epiphany (this year, Sunday, Jan. 8) to the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Monday, Jan. 9).

Older calendars and traditions even carry it through until the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, on Feb. 2.

So, while the big rush of parties and presents and travel may be over, there’s no reason to stop celebrating Christmas for a good long time — and that includes enjoying Christmas movies and TV specials.

I asked some of the Family Theater Productions staff to share favorites for the season. Enjoy!

Head of Production Father David Guffey, C.S.C.

  • It’s a Wonderful Life: As we celebrate the incarnation of God made human in Jesus, the film looks at the importance of a single human being and shows how each person has a part to play in bringing life and joy to the world.
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas: Reminder about what Christmas is really about and come on, how often do you get to hear the Gospel of Luke read on network TV? Go Linus.
  • A Christmas Carol: 1984 Version Starring George C Scott. The film reminds us that Love is what we are made for and called to. I also like the 2009 version starring Jim Carey.
  • Guilty Pleasure Christmas: Elf: Would that we could live with such a sense of wonder.

Post-Production and Multimedia Specialist Don Burt:

  • A Christmas Carol: The 1938 one, with Reginald Owen.  I am a sap for any redemption story and this is the original.
  • It’s a Wonderful Life: Have seen in, literally hundreds of times.  Same reason as above, if you think about it, they are two similar stories.  Both men, probably not achieving what they thought they would.  Only difference is that Scrooge is unaware of the life he was supposed to lead and George refuses to accept his.
  • The Bishop’s WifeThe 1947 one, for the same reason as above.
  • The Shop around the Corner: Sweet little film about misjudging someone and later finding love.

(I could give you probably 20 films on this list)

Pastoral Assistant Laura Zambrana:

  • Holiday Inn: I love it because of the chemistry between Marjorie Reynolds and Bing Crosby’s vocals and Fred Astaire’s dance numbers. It is such an enjoyable musical and introduces “White Christmas.”
  • It’s A Wonderful Life: I love it because my dad played this movie for us growing up. I always liked it, but have grown to love it more and more each year. It is all about hope in humanity and how much each of us matter and need each other.
  • Elf: I love it because it is Will Ferrell at his finest – so comedic and clean and ridiculous. It is heartwarming without being cheesy, and a true family film, where everyone can enjoy it.

Office Assistant Sarah Ambrosio:

  • The Nutcracker Ballet: Always loved ballet, and this is a feast for eyes and ears. Not to mention a young Macaulay Culkin with Kevin Kline narrating. My fave Christmas movie ever!!
  • The Holiday: Can never get enough of that perfect English cottage and England in the snow. So picturesque! And Jude Law … and his precious girls. Amazing. But, premarital sex warning.
  • The Nativity Story: – Despite Catholic criticism for authenticity and Mary’s “brattiness,” the historical aspect of this one is priceless … clothing, textures, foods, housing. CGI-heavy but a neat meditation on the love and growth of Mary and Joseph’s relationship.

And as for me …

  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: Close to the heart of any misfit who’s seen it, and anyone who’s ever felt as unwanted and unloved as the residents of the Island of Misfit Toys. Winds up as a lesson that growing up can help you find your courage and your place in the world (but it did kind of sour me on Santa pretty young).
  • A Christmas Carol: Also the 1984 George C. Scott version. My favorite part is Edward Woodward’s Ghost of Christmas Present, who manages to be both jolly and menacing (with a chest wig and on stilts!)
  • Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol: Outstanding songs, genuinely creepy where necessary, and gave the world “razzleberry pudding.”

And guilty pleasure?

  • Die Hard: Ultimately, it’s about courage, resourcefulness and a Catholic couple coming back together — and it ends with redemption. Christmas demerits, though, for plenty of salty language and violence.

Image: Courtesy 20th Century Fox, RKO, Entertainment Partners Limited

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