Jack Black, Christmas Movies, and Me

I didn't set out to love Christmas movies any more than I set out to memorize the lyrics to nine million Christmas songs. But it happened anyway, the way things do. I was a Jewish kid who didn't celebrate Christmas--although I was part of big extended family and some of them did and certainly many of my friends did. And then I married into a really big, extended and diverse family and became part of whole bunch of people who mostly did celebrate Christmas--in a variety of different forms-- and so it was always there for the tasting, so to speak.

This is not, by the way, going to be a particularly serious post, but since we have been having some very serious and needed conversations about diversity lately, let me add that unless you shut off media consumption entirely for most of your life, Christmas essentially bombards you whether you want it to or not. This is not a bad thing, but it is a thing. And if you're the smoked salmon swimming upstream, you are, let's face it, the kid who isn't going to sit on Santa's lap or write him a letter and are in fact the kid who doesn't know what to tell your friends who do believe that a man comes down their chimney (even if they don't have one) and brings them gifts. For weeks, well-meaning adults bend over you and ask you what you want for Christmas, or if you're ready for Christmas (that was easy one. Yes, I am ready! It's easy to get ready if you have nothing to do!), and I certainly did like making and giving gifts to people I loved. But who doesn't like that at any season? I still love that! And I also love my own holidays, so honestly it's all cool. It's just that it's so, you know, pervasive.

 You make ornaments in art for the tree you don't have, and sing songs about Jesus in choir (they are beautiful songs and you love them for their musicality but still), and every once in a while someone tosses about the dreidel song or says the word latke and your ears perk up like a dog hearing kibble drop in a bowl. One year I convinced my mother to let me decorate our rubber tree with ornaments. Another year I did go sit on Santa's lap and told him what I wanted for Christmas. It was not dissimilar to voting in the Republican primary because you want to cast a vote for some local candidates you like. But the whole time it feels stealthy and weird, like at some sudden moment, the octogenarian with the home perm checking you in will holler, "Democrat!" and you'll be undone.

(For the uninitiated, Chanukah is not a major Jewish holiday. Passover is, however, and thus my personal excitement and curiosity about Christian Bale playing Moses in the new Exodus movie. Christian Bale! As Moses! Will he be as good as old Chuck Heston? Why does everyone in the film seem to have British accents? But I digress…)

But Christmas movies! Oh how I love Christmas movies! I really, really do. (So much so that I think it leaked into my brain and my 2013 book, THE SWEET DEAD LIFE, ended up set at Christmas in Houston. Cause what better setting for a book about what happens when your stoner brother comes back from a fatal car accident as your guardian angel? And you can't tell anyone because even if you did, who would believe you? Certainly not your next door neighbors with all their lawn angels…)

Anyway, Christmas movies. I adore them.  And not just Christmas movies set at Christmas. But non-Christmas movies that are set at Christmas, too, so the holiday has to sort of subliminally leak in. And since this post is getting long and I have a book to finish writing so my editor doesn't think I'm a slacker, I shall get to it now.

Let me finally add that this is not the entire list. In fact, I'm sure I'm skipping some of my favorites. But the ones that come to mind immediately include, in no particular order:

1. Love Actually (multiple stories! A goofy song! Every actor you love! Happy, happy endings!)

2. The Holiday (Jack Black ends up with Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz ends up with Jude Law plus Christmas in both rural England and LA and a lovely minor role by the late great Eli Wallach. Plus a Chanukah party! Jack Black and Eli Wallach and Kate Winslet celebrating Chanukah while the Santa Ana winds blow outside this gorgeous house!)

3. Serendipity ( John Cusak cute meets Kate Beckinsale at Christmas and wacky love story ensues. Plus the restaurant of the same name. And ice skating in Central Park.)

4. It's a Wonderful Life (Do I even have to explain this one? Zuzus petals. Enough said.)

5. Every Hallmark Christmas movie, including but not limited to The Christmas List (a perfume counter saleslady puts her Christmas wish list in Santa's mailbox at the store and much wacky Christmas frolic ensues) and the more recent Snow Bride (girl who works at a gossip mag goes to spy on wealthy political family, car gets stuck, she's somehow wearing her bf's wedding dress and then she falls in love. At Christmas. In a celluloid perfect town near Big Bear in CA.). Also a very old one I haven't seen in a long time called The House Without a Christmas Tree.

6. Home Alone 1 and 2. (again, do I even have to explain? Kevinnnnnnnnn!!! And fyi, the whole McCauley Culkin's dead thing was an internet hoax)

7. Die Hard (did you remember it took place at Christmas? Well it does!)

8. A Christmas Story (You'll put your eye out, kid!)

9. Miracle on 34th Street (the 30s version with Natalie Wood and Maureen O'Hara… it's Thanksgiving AND Christmas! Plus a miracle!)

10. When Harry Met Sally (some of it takes place at the holidays, especially the end!!)

11. And of course, A Charlie Brown Christmas and the original cartoon version of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. (did you know the voice was Boris Karloff??)

And a million more, including Edward Scissorhands, which yes, takes place in part at Christmas!

Merry Christmas/Happy Chanukah/Cheery Winter Solstice, etc.


  1. Great list, Joy! You might want to check out The Bishop's Wife with Cary Grant. It's one of my favorites.

    1. I love that one, too! I knew I was forgetting like a zillion!

  2. I love Christmas movies! Another good one is "Christmas in Connecticut," a WWII-era romcom about a single NYC food writer who has made up a persona as a housewife on a Connecticut farm and has to whip up a family when her publisher decides to spend Christmas with her.

    1. I did see this one, but only once! Need to find it again.

  3. A Christmas Story is the best! You need to include! :-) When Harry Met Sally is one of my fave movies ever and the only romantic movie I like. Normally, can't stand chick flicks. Home Alone is great!!

  4. I almost did "Favorite Christmas movies" as a topic, but your version is much better than the version I would've done!

    I also liked "The House without a Christmas Tree," and the whole Addie Mills series--do you remember the books, too?

    And one year when my family was having kind of a downer day, we watched National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and it hit us just right--the kind of laughs we needed then.

    1. Yes, Addie Mills series! I do remember! The film was made back when fathers in movies like that were played by Jason Robards--who was so perfect for the role. And yes to N Lampoon movies in general. (We still quote from the Vacation one: "Aunt Edna! Helper's ready!")

  5. A fun list! Thanls for sharing. I am way behind, apparently, in watching Christmas movies.



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