I moved from England to Maine in 2003. During this time, as I discovered many new family traditions, I came to the realization that the movie/Christmas special traditions of this country were vastly different from what I’d grown up with. GeekMom Nicole’s post earlier this month reminded me of this: all of the specials that she wrote about were ones I had never heard of prior to 2003. It took me years to love Ralphie…and even longer to love Rudolph. I don’t think I have yet managed to convince an American friend or family member of how wonderful my own Christmas specials are. So here are a few of the specials that I grew up with in England. They aren’t all English but they aren’t at all commonplace over here (from what I have seen).
1. Santa Claus: The Movie. This is the Father Christmas I saw in my mind as a child. When you talk about Christmas, this is the face that I see in that red suit. John Lithgow plays an evil toymaker to Dudley Moore’s optimistic elf. We follow the life of Santa in the 80s and watch a ragamuffin child and little rich girl help Dudley’s elf, Patch, learn what it truly means to be loved by Santa. The music sticks with me till April.
2. The Christmas Toy. Pretty much Jim Henson’s take on Toy Story, well before Pixar was around. What happens when you leave the room and your toys come to life? What happens when one of them believes that he will get to be unwrapped every Christmas morning. This show has some heavy moments in it (for instance, the toys “die” if they are seen out of place), but this is one I have already been watching with my two-year-old.
3. Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman. Having seen what toys who come to life do, this shows us what snowmen who come to life do. No dialogue from anyone, not even John Goodman, just music. If you have ever heard “Walking in the Air” and wondered why it’s always around, this is the source. It’s a beautifully quiet reflection for Christmas.
One of the things that I always looked forward to in December was getting the two-week edition of the Radio Times, Britain’s version of TV Guide. Usually published weekly, the two-week special encapsulates both Christmas and New Year’s, thus giving you the chance to schedule all of your holiday-time viewing beforehand. My dad still sends me a copy every year, though I can’t actually watch any of the shows. Still, I like knowing whether Zulu will be airing again on Christmas day, and I also like to be reminded to watch the Queen’s annual Christmas address. This year’s edition has me wishing for Gillian Anderson in Great Expectations and Christopher Eccleston in The Borrowers. I’ll have to settle, though, for ABC’s “25 days of Christmas” and get my Heat Miser fix on Christmas Eve.