Christmas and the Family: The Best Part of the Season

Last year I spent the month of December reviewing and rating a whole slew of Christmas movies. And as nice as it was to watch that much holiday cheer, my month long Merry-Thon pretty much drained my reservoir of Christmas movies.

So if you were hoping for the same thing again this year, I'm sorry. I don't see how I can do it. Sure, there are plenty of other Christmas movies, but I was mainly focusing on the big classics. I could cover The Smurfs Christmas Special and such but ... I'm not going to. (Or how about A Flintstones Christmas Carol? What kind of sense does that make?)

The reason is that there are just too many Christmas specials out there for me to really build up my care level. I'm sure there are some great Christmas specials out there that people consider part of their personal or family Christmas tradition, and that's great. But the point of these mass reviews is not to cover every movie ever made. I mostly like to point people toward (or sometimes, away from) movies that I feel have earned a serious evaluation.

So for this December, rather than lock myself into 37 reviews (seriously, 37 reviews last December), I've decided to take a different tack. I'll be selecting just a few movies that may or may not have a Christmas element, but that can easily be considered feel-good family viewing.

The main thing I look forward to every year from the Christmas season is neither the presents nor the carols. Neither the decorations nor the snow. Though, there's plenty to enjoy with all of those.

What I look forward to the most every year is the time I spend with my family. Both immediate and extended.

(Maybe it's because I'm not yet married? You cynics can interpret that as you wish.)

Since I was a baby, my family has celebrated the Swedish tradition of Advent. My dad lived in Sweden for two years and brought the tradition home with him.

For the four Sundays before Christmas (my family does five because we're just that cool) we gather together, sing carols, eat cookies and other simple treats, and tell or read Christmas stories. On the first Advent, you light a candle. On the second, you light the first one, plus a second candle. And so on. Until at the last Advent, you have a little stairway of light.

And since three of my five siblings are married with kids, the grand-chilluns love to take their turn in lighting or blowing out the candles each week. Very precious.

It's a great tradition and it really emphasizes family throughout the entire Christmas season.

Now, I'm not going to sit here and write an article about how over-commercialized Christmas has become. Personally, I think that's a very cynical way to view the whole thing. There are plenty of people who get and give lots of presents who nonetheless keep fully in their mind and heart the reason why they're celebrating.

To call the whole thing over-commercialized is to only look on the surface. Personally, I get a lot of pleasure giving, and I will not deny that pleasure to anyone.

But the gifts are just a trapping of Christmas, like the holly or mistletoe.

Another Swedish celebration my family maintains is Midsommar, around the Summer solstice. In Sweden, they invite entire communities to one giant celebration as they dance around the maypole singing "Små Grodorna" and eating lots of potatoes.

But Midsommar is a community thing. Christmas is about family.

I get sad when I hear about kids going on skiing trips with their friends rather than spend Christmas with their family. I find that to be more distracting than the abundance of presents.

So that's why this month I plan to review a handful of films that the entire family can watch together. Things that can bring us all closer and simply make us feel great.

Because, whether you believe in the official "reason for the season" or not, family unity is a goal that can never be overdone in today's world.

(And if you can think of a Christmas film or special that I should definitely consider, I'm open to suggestions. They're not my focus this time around, but I'm not necessarily going to avoid them.)

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