Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Christmas culture

Although I'm quite religious about Christmas and love for my Advent to be Advent, etc., there are some aspects of the popular and secular Christmas culture that are dear to me. They actually enhance, rather than detract from my experience of and participation in the "true meaning of Christmas." Specifically, there are five creative works that have so become part of my celebration of Christmas that I can scarcely imagine Christmas without them. They do not replace the Christmas Story, but enhance it as secondary reflections upon the human impact of Love made Man.
  • First, there is A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, whether it be by reading and unabridged or abridged version, or by seeing one of the screen renditions. Whatever Dicken's religious convictions, there is something very powerful and true to the meaning of the Incarnation about the underlying message. There are two screen renditions I definitely don't like. The first is the Mr. Magoo one, that I loved as a child, but now see as woefully materialistic in its distortion. Second is the one with Patrick Stewart as Scrooge. Make it not so!
  • Second, is Its A Wonderful Life. I never watched it until I had a family of my own, but we now try to watch it together every year. Once again, shaky theology at points, but a great message about the value of life and the providence of God.
  • Although many people dislike Suess for one reason or another, I'm not one of them. I think he really hit pay dirt with How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The 1966 TV musical special is an astounding gem. You can't beat the narrative and voice by Boris Karloff, or the little voice of Cindy Lou Who. I have nothing to say about the Jim Carrie version, having not seen it.
  • Then there is the O. Henry story, "The Gift of the Magi." I heard it read aloud on CBC's "As it Happens" a couple of weeks ago. Henry's style is sometimes a little jarring for twenty-first century ears, but the pathos--and joy--is quite effective. Jim and Della's expression of love is quite moving and there is something to the association of the sacrificial generosity of a married couple and the love of Christ for his Bride, the Church, which begins with the marriage of heaven and earth at the Incarnation.
  • Finally, there is A Charlie Brown Christmas. I am always brought to tears when Linus stands on the stage and says, "Lights, please," and begins the reading from the Gospel of Luke. Can you imagine anyone doing anything like that on network television now?

I also like The Homecoming, the pilot for The Waltons, although it gets a little rough around the edges at some points for the youngest. Hamner does not himself come across as a religious man to me, although I don't know anything about it.


Love2Learn Mom said...

You're right - those are all fabulous and mainstays here too. I'm not generally a Seuss fan, but the Grinch (and especially the movie) are great!

Love2Learn Mom said...

We have a new favorite this year, by the way, which you may enjoy. It's an old movie short from 1945 - Oscar winning in fact. We discovered it in the special features for Christmas in Connecticut (with Barbara Stanwyck). It's called Star in the Night and it's really great (funny too). We showed it to lots of visitors on Christmas Day.

Denise said...

A Charlie Brown Christmas is a great part of the season in my family too. I also watch several versions of A Christmas Carol every year. I have to disagree with you about the Patrick Stewart version, though--it’s one of my favorite versions. I think one reason I like it is that after Scrooge’s conversion, he goes to church, a scene rarely included in the story, but a necessary one to show his complete understanding of what Christmas means.

Robert Gotcher said...

I just don't think Stewart is crusty enough. He is still Picard.