I sit typing this to the strains of The First Noel, as sung by the choir of King’s College, Cambridge. There’s a wreath on the front door, a bare tree waiting to be decorated (as soon as The Husband gets home and I can justify opening a bottle of something – you can’t decorate a tree without wine), and a candle calling itself “Christmas wreath” burning away in an attempt to create the illusion that said tree is real, rather than BHS’s finest plastic.
Yes, it is indeed the most wonderful time of the year!
But what would Christmas be without the cinematic wonder that is The Christmas Movie?
Last night, The Husband and I sat down to watch The Polar Express. We’d got as far as manhandling the trees and other decorations down from the loft and, knackered, aching and covered in dust, were hoping that a little festive entertainment would give us the enthusiasm to get out those baubles. As you’ll have gathered, it didn’t work – mainly because of the combination of far too much Tom Hanks and seriously creepy animation (kids that looked like the kind of wax dolls you’d never want to find with pins sticking out of them at the back of a fireplace somewhere you were staying overnight); but also because, when it came down to it, we were just too lazy.
So The Polar Express was a wash-out, but never fear: thanks to the wonders of cable TV, we have not one but three channels dedicated to Christmas films. Is it possible to have too much of a good thing, I hear you ask. The answer, of course, is a resounding “No!”
In true Columbo tradition, all cable TV Christmas films are essentially the same: that’s what makes ’em so great! So in homage to the genius of the genre, this post is dedicated to the ingredients of the archetypal Christmas film…
1. Cheesy title. The title must include either something synonymous with Christmas, the word “Christmas” itself – there are no prizes here for subtlety – or a puntastic play on words. Ideally all of the above. So we have “Snow Globe” or “Stealing Christmas” or “Undercover Christmas” or “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” or “The Christmas Without Santa Claus” (hmm – that last one sounds daringly alarmist). And in the wordplay corner, we have “All About Christmas Eve,” “Snowmageddon” and – my personal favourite – “Battle of the Bulbs.”
2. Irritating children. Because Christmas is all about the ankle biters. Apparently.
3. Sleigh bells. Ideally, you’ll have a few song and dance numbers. At the very least, you need plenty of festive tunes – and that means a bulk order of sleigh bells for the orchestra. They’re ringing – are you listenin’?
4. Christmas tree. This can feature in any number of ways: its lights casting a gentle glow on the upturned faces of (2); a comedy catastrophe of tangled tinsel and falling foliage (usually involving a hapless dad or an enthusiastic family pet); or, of course, that old faithful – the eleventh hour battle to procure the last available tree. The possibilities are endless, but the tree MUST be there.
5. The moral lesson. And finally, the heart of any Christmas film – the True Meaning of Christmas. Not in the literal way, mind you – there’s BBC2 for Jesus – but something heart-warming and lovely about being nice to each other. I defy anyone to resist this. Watch a Christmas film and you’ll stop obsessing about who ate the last purple chocolate from the tin of Roses, or why you’ve only got a set of coasters from Aunty Mabel and Uncle Don when you bought them that really nice cheeseboard and knife set, or why they bought you coasters at all when surely they can remember they gave you a set last year as well. Stick on the film, have a large glass of something very alcoholic – well, it is Christmas – and let yourself be suffused with goodwill towards your fellow man.
So there it is: proof, if any were needed, that sticking to a formula doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Now I’m off to have a mince pie and put the telly on…