Friday, December 11, 2015

12 Days of Christmas Stuff

Somehow, while rehearsals were going on and I was recovering from NaNoWriMo, a third of December happened. Christmas is in 13 days. So I'm jumpstarting my holiday spirits with some of my favorite Christmas things. And thought I'd share them here! So in no particular order, here are 12 days of Christmas books, stories, albums, and films.

1. Nativity! (film)
Martin Freeman plays a disgruntled elementary school teacher who is asked to put on this year's Nativity play. But can the magic of Christmas restore Mr. Madden's Scrooge-like disdain of the holidays? This is charming and so very British and I love it. ALSO, most of the script was improvised, Christopher Guest-style.

2. The Family Stone (film)
I adore poignant and quirky films about the beautiful imperfection of family. This is the perfect example of that.

3. Love Actually (film)
Oh the greatness of this British film! I love the ensemble nature of this story (these stories?) and the ultimate message that love actually is all around us. (Warning for those interested in warnings: Rated R for language and nudity.)

4. Family Man (film)
Listen. This is one of my favorite films. Ever. I can't help it. It's so sweet and funny and lovely. It captures the beauty and challenge of marriage and family so well.

5. Angela and the Baby Jesus (children's book)
By Frank McCourt
Jacob read this out loud to his family the first year of our marriage, and I've deliberately made it a tradition for him to do so every year. It's hilarious and lovely.

6. A Green and Red Christmas (album) 
By the Muppets
You can't go wrong with the Muppets. Any Christmas song by Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem is a win in my book.

7. My Troubles (A Work in Progress, by Joseph of N--) (short story)
by Jonathan Goldstein
This short story is the last in a collection called "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bible!" It's a reimagining of the Christmas story from Joseph's point of view...human, worried, flawed, hard-working Joseph. I know not everyone will enjoy this story; Joseph is so very human in it, and some readers might feel it's sacrilegious to approach this character this way. That's okay. But I find it so meaningful--it makes it easier for me to connect to the people who lived and died in Jerusalem, to see the story in this realistic, humorous light. Joseph is just a guy, doing the best he can. Here's a small excerpt, just to get an idea of the tone of the story: "So it was pretty soon afterward that I started to worry. The angels must have seen Mary from Heaven and knew she was the right one for the job, but they probably didn't get a very good look at me. While they were all lying around on the clouds mooning over Mary, they probably missed her loudmouth boyfriend in the background griping about his stubbed toe. Who was I to be raising an angel baby? What could I teach a baby of any kind? How to hyperventilate when you're outbid for a carpentry job? How to cry in frustration when your roof caves in? What kid is going to want to hang around with me? All I have to teach him is how to worry. That was an area in which I excelled." 

8. Barenaked for the Holidays  (album)
by The Barenaked Ladies
Hands down, favorite holiday album of all time. Equal parts silly and sincere. And there's some Hannukah thrown in there, as well as Christmas!

9. A Christmas Carol (book/movie/play/musical/etc)
The book. Any version of the movie. Any version of the play. Just the story in general.

10. It's A Wonderful Life (film)
I always sort of forget how fantastic this movie really is. And then I re-watch it and am overwhelmed by its humor and heart.

11. A Very Murray Christmas (film)
A short Netflix original! It's mostly musical numbers, with a loose plot surrounding a failed live television special. I think I'm charmed by this mostly because it's sort of a dream--I want to end up in the hotel Carlyle in New York City during a blizzard on Christmas Eve, singing songs with Bill Murray and Paul Shaffer and David Johansen and Jason Schwartzman and Rashida Jones and Maya Rudolph and Phoenix. (Warning: Some language.)

12. The Bible: Luke, Chapter 2 (book excerpt)
Where it all began. Does anyone else always hear the voices of Charlie Brown characters when they read this story?


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