Christmas is right around the corner and to get into the right spirit I annually circle back to many Christmas-themed books, poems, movies/ series and songs before the holidays. Today, I would like to share my personal favourites with you.
Many Christmas songs are played throughout December, among them radio classics such as Merry Christmas Everyone by Shakin’ Stevens (1984), All I Want For Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey (1994), and Last Christmas by WHAM! (1984).
While I do enjoy these songs a lot, I tend to go back to more classical songs from my childhood in a choir with songs such as the German classics Maria Durch Ein Dornwald Ging or O Tannenbaum, du trägst ein grünes Kleid or the song O Holy Night which was based on a French poem. Two songs I always listen to on repeat are Eta Notsch Swjataja (arr. Füting, 2015) and Shchedryk.
Shchedryk might sound unfamiliar, but I am sure that everyone has at least heard of it once. The Ukrainian New Year’s song arranged by Mykola Leontovych in 1916 was originally used in a pre-Christmas spring in Ukraine when the swallows returned after the long winter. By singing these songs, people blessed each other with a good year of harvest. So why do I label it as a Christmas song? In 1922, the Ukrainian song was altered. Peter J. Wilhousky arranged a new English version that is well-known as Carol of the Bells, a popular Christmas song that attracted even more attention with its use in the movie Home Alone (Chris Columbus, 1991). Many people do not know or question the origin of the famous English version, which I believe to be a shame as the story behind the original ritual song and its lyrics are rather interesting.
Books, Short Stories and Poems:
- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss
- “The Little Match Girl” by Hans Christian Andersen
- “A Christmas Memory“ by Truman Capote
My last recommendation is not considered one of the classics for Christmas. However, I thought it to be rather interesting. “Journey of the Magi “ is a poem by the modernist writer T.S. Eliot. It retells the story of the birth of Christ by focusing on one of the magi’s perspectives. As I just mentioned, it is important to note that its author was an influential writer of modernist literature, so typical themes such as alienation and anxiety in an ever-changing world can be found. I think this poem shows another side of Christmas stories that might not be as popular as it can sometimes be hard to understand the meaning behind the words and verses, however, I still think it would be interesting to approach this poem as a literary challenge.
- The Family Stone (dir. Thomas Bezucha, 2005)
- Love Actually (dir. Richard Curtis, 2003)
- The Grinch (dir. Ron Howard, 2000)
- Santa Clause (dir. John Pasquin, 1995)
- Dash & Lily (Joe Tracz, 2020)
- Three Wishes for Cinderella (dir. Václav Vorlíček, 1973)
Here are some Christmas traditions and activities that I have enjoyed over the years.
- Feuerzangenbowle (dir. Helmut Weiss, 1944): Every year, a couple of days before Christmas, my whole family gets together to watch the German movie while having the actual drink. While this is an activity catering to the family’s adults, the children can enjoy their hot apple juice from authentic cups as well. Even though their drinks cannot be prepared the same way, they are always fascinated by the Feuerzangenbowle, prepared with a sugar cone on fire on top of the mug. This became a rather important tradition in my hometown as many families, neighbourhood clubs and even our university started to organize Feuerzangenbowle nights in the days before Christmas.
- Silly Christmas Pictures: Ugly Christmas Sweaters, DIY Christmas-themed headbands, recreating Christmas movie scenes as pictures
- Mince Pie Movie Marathons: During my time in England, I was introduced to many traditions from the UK. One that stuck with me was our Mince Pie Fridays. It is not an official tradition but a thing my family enjoyed a lot, it was a great way to introduce Christmas into a stressful week. Every Friday, after work and school, we would meet at home, prepare British Mince Pies and watch Christmas movies together. It was a great way to combine bonding time, relaxation and Christmas.
- Christmas Crackers: They are an English must-have for Christmas, children can enjoy the little gifts inside.