It Really is a Wonderful Life

Preparing for Christmas, I find my mind wandering every different direction. I look back on the holidays of the past. I still remember the Christmas I went to visit my grandparents in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and discovered that Santa wore the exact same rings as my Grandma Ellen. Hmmm…

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I remember watching A Christmas Carol at my grandparents’ house. The soundtrack for A Charlie Brown Christmas still sets the mood for my holidays each year. My first date with my (now) husband was to see A Christmas Story. Click to see and purchase! Click to see and purchase!

One of my favorite traditions for the season is watching It’s a Wonderful Life, with Donna Reed, Jimmy Stewart, and Lionel Barrymore. The themes from the film have been recycled over and over, year after year, but the original is still the best, in my opinion. Click to see and purchase!

It’s the story of a man – a husband, father, son, brother, employee – who has a bad day. A very bad day. This man feels completely out of options. He’s desperate, and decides the world would be better off without him. He wishes he had never been born.

To the rescue comes his guardian angel, who gives him a special gift. He shows our down-and-out hero what the world would have been like without him, and it is not a pretty picture. The movie poses the question: Do I really matter?

The film answers the question for our hero – of course he does. But the message of the story is that we all matter. Every single life makes a difference. Each person touches the others around him in such a unique and powerful way, that without even just one person in their proper place, things become very different.

In a season of reflection, I find myself missing all of the precious people that have passed away this last year. I consider how much has changed, and how grateful I am to have had them in my life.

At the end of Wonderful Life, Stewart’s character realizes what a real treasure he has. He reunites with his family and friends and celebrates the opportunity to a future of hope.

That’s what Christmas is truly about: HOPE.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thank you for reading, and have a very blessed Christmas.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It’s Christmas. No getting around it. No more putting off the decorating or shopping. Get out that reindeer sweater and your jingle-bell earrings. Find Grandma’s divinity recipe and build that gingerbread house. It’s time for merriment. Parties, plays, choir concerts and cookie swaps are everywhere you turn.

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Listening to the radio these days can be tough, though. I enjoy Christmas music. I sing I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas, Santa Baby, and Jingle Bell Rock at the drop of a hat. I love the quiet and almost hallow notes of Silent Night and Away in a Manger. I like that Elvis, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Eartha Kitt, Chris Isaak, and Michael Jackson all have Christmas tunes that weave seamlessly with the Carpenters and Bing Crosby. My only problem is all those tear-jerker songs.

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You know what songs I’m talking about. The Christmas Shoes, One Last Christmas, It Won’t Be the Same This Year, and The Little Boy Santa Claus Forgot all just bring tears to my eyes. I sure can’t drive while listening to them.

So all this music has got me thinking… Christmas is a time of emotions. We celebrate the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. We get together with friends and family, near and far. We miss those who are no longer with us. We see great acts of sacrifice. We witness ridiculous acts of selfishness. We reminisce about past holidays and look forward to the coming year with hope.

Maybe this is why so many books and movies that really have nothing to do with the holidays have their stories nestled into the backdrop of Christmas. Consider all the “seasonal” films that really are about relationships or personal victories (or tragedies) and you’ll usually see that Christmas is just a setting. Most are not about Christmas at all.

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The Bishop’s Wife is about a troubled marriage. Penny Serenade is about a couple struggling with grief. Little Women is about sisters coming of age. While You Were Sleeping is a romantic comedy about loneliness. Even A Christmas Carol is a story about regret. They all just have Christmas time as another character in the tale. It is the binding that links the emotions of the characters with the audience. It’s good story-telling.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.