Each year as the winter holidays approach, I look forward to spending time curled up on the couch with my family with a huge bowl of warm popcorn and the television. At the same time, we watch the “Polar Express.,” an adaptation of Chris Van Allsburg’s book by the same title. Now, please don’t take me the wrong way or think less of me when I say this next sentence, but…
I find the film version slightly better than the book.
I know, I know, I work at the library. I deal with books; I am supposed to promote reading and believe that the book version is better.
Before this train derails, and you don’t read anymore, let me explain. I like the book version, I love it, but I feel that the secondary characters, which aren’t found in the book, help bring the story to life and make it more relatable.
Watching this movie together as a family has been a tradition since my children were in preschool. They are 14- and 17-years old, and it continues to be our Christmas Eve go-to-movie. Thank you, Ms. Shanna & Ms. Kara, and I mean this, for introducing us to Polar Express Day, where the kids got to wear pajamas to school, drink hot chocolate. (Yes, if you have watched the movie, you just sang that, and I apologize now for the riff that will be going through your head for the next week.). Received golden tickets, got to watch the film, and came home with reindeer food.
Pondering this and wondering how many more years my husband and I will experience this family tradition also got me thinking about some of our favorite holiday films and the stories behind them. Below I visit four other titles that fit that bill and are considered classics, both in print, live-action, or animation.
One classic that has come to life not only on the printed page but on the silver screen, too, is Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Who can resist the story of Ebenezer Scrooge and his ghostly visitor, Jacob Marley, who warns Scrooge that he will receive visits from the Spirits of Christmases Past, Present, and Yet to Come as Marley tries to keep Scrooge from the same fate that Marley has experienced in death? After being presented with these visions, Scrooge becomes a kinder, gentler version of himself. Our favorite film versions of this tale come in as a tie between Jim Henson’s Muppet adaptation and the 1984 adaptation featuring George C. Scott.
Similar to Scrooge, the Grinch also learned what the true meaning of Christmas was when “his heart grew three sizes in one day.” What’s more, it came without packages, boxes, or bows. To this day, my favorite film version of this Dr. Seuss classic is the one featuring Jim Carrey as the Grinch.
The next pick reminds us that “every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.” For those that have seen the film “It’s a Wonderful Life,” recognize this line. But how many know that this movie is based on a short story? It’s true! This adaptation is based on “The Greatest Gift” by Philip Van Doren Stern. Like Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Stern’s character George Pratt, not Bailey, is contemplating suicide. However, Pratt is granted the opportunity to see what the world would be like without him.
Our last choice is considered by many to be a cult classic. And anyone who has TBS knows of the 24-hour marathon showing of this film. Moreover, the oft-repeated, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!” always brings back other recollections of scenes, including the fra-gi-le leg lamp. Like with the previous pick, many may not realize that “A Christmas Story” is an adaptation of Jean Shepherd’s writings. Individual incidents that appear in the movie can be found in separate collections of Shepherd’s works; however, if you would like to read the story in its entirety, check out Jean Shepherd’s book, “A Christmas Story: The Book that Inspired the Hilarious Classic Film.”
Looking back at these titles, we can see that they all have one thing in common: Christmas is more than giving or receiving gifts. It’s about family, friends, sharing memories, and making new ones together. What to check these titles and more out, but don’t have a library card? See what it takes to get the best card in your wallet today!