Katie Faley: Suggestions for Christmas movies to help you get into the spirit
Cause of Our Joy l Katie Faley
This is a month full of fun things — parties, gifts, music, movies, family. So I thought this month calls for a fun article.
It seems like every year, the Christmas season starts earlier and earlier. Amidst lighting the Advent candles and spiritually waiting for the birth of Christ, I put up and trimmed my Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving, started buying Christmas presents for my family at the beginning of November, and have had the song “Last Christmas” stuck in my head since, well, last Christmas. While I don’t advocate for letting Christmas entirely overrun Advent, I think starting the Christmas movie watch a little early is perfectly fine.
And, if you’re anything like me, you’ve already rotated through almost all of the Christmas movie staples for the year.
“The Grinch”? Check.
“White Christmas”? Check.
All 693 Hallmark Christmas movies? Check x 693.
If you’re looking for some lesser known Christmas movies, I wanted to share some of my favorites.
IF YOU LIKE “IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE”
“The Shop Around the Corner” — Also starring James Stewart, this is the original “You’ve Got Mail.” It’s sweet, innocent, and in black and white. Two clashing shopkeepers unknowingly become pen pals at Christmastime. While they fight at work, they get to know each other through their anonymous letters back and forth. I don’t want to ruin the ending, but it’s a happy one! (Also check out “Meet Me in St. Louis,” “Bachelor Mother,” “It Happened on 5th Avenue.”)
IF YOU WANT SOMETHING MORE DRAMATIC
“Doubt” — Some may disagree with me because this movie spotlights flawed Catholics, but that’s precisely why I enjoyed it. A rigid religious sister/Catholic school principal butts heads with the likable parish priest in 1964 over some pretty hefty things. Accusations are tossed around. You’re left really thinking. The movie and cast won multiple awards for good reason. (Also check out “The Two Popes,” “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” “A Man for All Seasons.”)
FOR A DOSE OF LIGHTHEARTED NOSTALGIA
“Feast of the Seven Fishes” — I’m not Italian, so I’d never heard of this particular feast. After watching, I did my customary internet deep dive and learned that the Feast of the Seven Fishes is an Italian-American celebration. Traditionally, Catholics would abstain from meat on the eve of a liturgical feast. So, every Christmas Eve, Italian-American families gather to make several different kinds of seafood to observe the fast together. The eve finishes with Midnight Mass to celebrate the birth of Christ.
This movie has everything you could want: heartwarming nostalgia, a blooming love story, and very relatable family members. But parents be warned, this movie contains some unsavory language and isn’t for kids. (Also check out: “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” “Little Women,” “Yours, Mine, and Ours.”)
IF YOU’RE INTO DOCUMENTARIES:
“Pray: The Story of Patrick Peyton” — Father Patrick Peyton had dreams of becoming a millionaire. Instead, he became a priest and one of the most famous advocates for family prayer in modern times. This movie documents the life of a poor Irish immigrant with hopes of striking his fortune in America. Hint: he finds his fortune, but it’s not what he was expecting when sailing away from Ireland in 1928. (Also check out: “Saint Nicholas: The Real Story.”)
FOR A GOOD CHRISTMAS CRY:
“The Ultimate Gift” — Because of my love for Hallmark Christmas movies, my brother-in-law told me I must watch this movie. He did not tell me it would be so movingly sad. So here I am telling you. But, he was right. You must watch it. It’s a great way to enter into the mindset of selflessly living and giving this Christmas season. (Also check out: “The Heart of Christmas.”)
FOR THE KIDS HOME ON BREAK:
“Godmothered” — This is just good fun. A clumsy fairy godmother sets out to grant the wish of a woman whose childhood wish was never granted. She’s become a bit of a scrooge in her adulthood, but together, she and her fairy godmother learn to appreciate the meaning of Christmas, family, and giving. (Also check out: “Angela’s Christmas,” “Buttons: A Christmas Tale,” “The Star,” “Babes in Toyland”.)
I have yet to find a distinctly Advent movie, but when I do, I’ll let you all know. In the meantime, a blessed Advent, Merry Christmas, and happy watching.
KATIE FALEY is a member of St. Mark Parish in Peoria and a writing coordinator for OSF HealthCare. She has a master’s degree in theology and theological studies from the University of Notre Dame.