Holiday practices such as the Christmas tree, caroling, and exchanging gifts are rooted in traditions that go back generations. But for people of the modern age, there’s a new tradition without which the holiday season would be incomplete: gathering the family around the television and watching our favorite Christmas movies.
Most of these beloved stories have their roots on the printed page. So this year, instead of switching on the cable box or firing up the DVD player, how about enjoying some Christmas the old school way? Pour some eggnog for your family, light a fire in the fireplace, and read from these holiday classics.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (Various editions)
The undisputed king of Christmas stories, Dickens’ tale of an old miser who is taught the meaning of Christmas by three ghosts has been retold on film so many times and in so many versions that it’s difficult to keep count. But the language and tone of Dickens’ original classic still resonate as beautifully as they did when the book was originally published 171 Christmases ago. The ghosts might scare younger children, but your older kids (and those who are children at heart) will thrill to Scrooge’s journey through the past, present, and future, and will be moved by his eventual epiphany. God bless us, everyone!
Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine Davies (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2010)
The tale of the man who claims to be Kris Kringle during the height of the holiday season in New York City has been adapted into films twice, and has delighted generations of moviegoers. This facsimile print edition, however, offers readers the beauty and elegance of the original 1947 novel that inspired the first movie adaptation. The book includes historical notes on how the book came to be written and how the first film came to be made. If you can’t find this in the bookstore, order it online and have it delivered by the United States Post Office, the entity that plays such a big part in the original story.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss (Random House Books for Young Readers, 1957)
Fresh off the completion of The Cat in the Hat, Dr. Seuss (a.k.a. Theodore Geisel) dashed off most of this story in three weeks, but got hung up on the ending. How, he wondered, could he bring the Grinch around to loving Christmas without sounding like some second-rate preacher? His simple choice of having the Grinch sit down with the Whos and carve the “roast beast” is now one of our favorite holiday images thanks to the classic 1966 Chuck Jones animated adaptation. Read this book to your little ones and see how well you can bring the Grinch to life.
The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern (Simon and Schuster, 2014)
You may never have heard of this short story, originally published in 1943. But every year, millions of people gather around the television to watch its film adaptation, It’s a Wonderful Life. Inspired by a dream, Stern finished the story in 1943. Unable to find a publisher, he had 200 copies printed privately and gave them away as Christmas gifts. Eventually, the story found its way to RKO pictures, and then to Frank Capra and his production company, Liberty Films. While the movie disappointed at the box office, today it is considered one of the greatest ever made, and sobbing one’s eyes out at the redemption of George Bailey is now an annual tradition. What would life be like if this story had never been written? I’m glad we don’t have to know.