Christmas by medium

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Christmas themes have long been an inspiration to artists and writers. Filmmakers have picked up on this wealth of material, with both adaptations of literary classics and new stories.



Donna Reed, Jimmy Stewart and Karolyn Grimes in the American film It's a Wonderful Life It's A Wonderful Life.jpg
Donna Reed, Jimmy Stewart and Karolyn Grimes in the American film It's a Wonderful Life

Many Christmas stories have been adapted to movies and TV specials, and have been broadcast and repeated many times on TV. Since the popularization of home video in the 1980s, their many editions are sold and re-sold every year during the holiday shopping season. Notable examples are the many versions of the ballet The Nutcracker , the film It's a Wonderful Life , and the similarly themed versions of Dickens' A Christmas Carol , in which the elderly miser Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by ghosts and learns the errors of his ways. By contrast, the hero of the former, George Bailey, is a businessman who sacrificed his dreams to help his community. On Christmas Eve, a guardian angel finds him in despair and prevents him from committing suicide, by supernaturally showing him how much he meant to the world around him.

A few films based on fictionalized versions of true stories have become Christmas specials themselves. The story behind the Christmas carol "Silent Night" and the story of "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" are two examples. [1] [2]

Sometimes, family films boasting special effects and/or uplifting messages, but having no real relation to Christmas, are telecast during the season as part of the holiday programming. The Wizard of Oz , for instance, was always telecast during the Christmas season between 1959 and 1962. [3] Other films often seen around the Christmas period are Annie , Chitty Chitty Bang Bang , E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial , Mary Poppins , Oliver! , The Sound of Music , Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory , and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well as several animated Disney, DreamWorks, and Pixar movies. Others have some scenes during the Christmas season, such as the Harry Potter films, which are frequently included in the viewing rotation. The action film Die Hard is seen by some as a Christmas film, as it takes place on the holiday, and is often viewed during the season, [4] although whether or not Die Hard should be considered a Christmas film has been debated due to its story not being about the holiday itself. [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

In the United Kingdom, during the 2000s ITV usually showed a James Bond and/or a Harry Potter film(s) during the Christmas Holidays whilst the BBC showed the Chronicles of Narnia and/or High School Musical films. And for many years Channel 5 have shown American/Canadian made-for-TV Christmas films during the weeks before Christmas.

In North America, the holiday movie season often includes release of studios' most prestigious pictures, in an effort both to capture holiday crowds and to position themselves for Oscar consideration. Next to summer, this is the second-most lucrative season for the industry. In fact, a few films each year open on the actual Christmas Day holiday. Christmas movies generally open no later than Thanksgiving, as their themes are not so popular once the season is over. Likewise, the home video release of these films is typically delayed until the beginning of the next year's Christmas season.

American Christmas-themed films are also broadcast on the Hallmark Channel and its companion channel Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, which during the holiday season generally feature new films along with reruns of favorites from prior years. Actresses Candace Cameron Bure, Lacey Chabert, and Danica McKellar, along with actor Niall Matter, are frequently featured in lead or major roles. The films themselves generally feature a similar theme of a person who has "lost the Christmas spirit" and through "Christmas magic" regains it (commonly by a romantic encounter; frequently one of the two in the romance is a single parent or has lost someone special around a prior Christmas season). Another theme plays on the "big city-small town" dynamic, whereby a lead character has either left a small hometown for the big city (and has had to return), or a big city person has to go to a small town, in either case deciding that the small town is where they should remain.

The settings are usually in the northern United States, or in a mountain area (such as Colorado), where snow (and the ensuing "White Christmas") are used as a backdrop for the film (though the films themselves are often filmed in British Columbia due to favorable film tax benefits).

As of Christmas 2019 The Grinch is the List of highest grossing Christmas film of all time.

Television specials and episodes

Before 1962, when Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol premiered, true Christmas specials made for TV were either adaptations of stories such as A Christmas Carol (with live actors), or the Nativity Story, or episodes of variety shows highlighting Christmas music. They were often hosted by such celebrities as Perry Como, Jane Wyatt, or Florence Henderson. (A notable exception was The Spirit of Christmas in 1950, which, although featuring an appearance by Alexander Scourby, who also narrated, starred the Mabel Beaton Marionettes.)

This all changed once variety shows began dying out in the late 1980s and Rankin-Bass began producing more and more Christmas specials.

One notable television special usually seen at Christmas was Amahl and the Night Visitors , the first opera written especially for television. Composed by Gian-Carlo Menotti with a libretto in English by the composer, the opera told of a disabled beggar boy living with his (presumably) widowed mother in the Holy Land. They are visited by the Three Wise Men who are on their way to see the Christ Child, and when Amahl offers his crutch as a gift, he is miraculously cured. Commissioned by NBC, the opera was telecast annually in the U.S. from 1951 to 1966. In 1978, it returned to television, but this new production did not have the spectacular success that previous ones did.

United Kingdom

TV programmes which have had special Christmas episodes in the United Kingdom include Top of the Pops (from 1960s-2006), Morecambe and Wise (1970s), The Two Ronnies (1980s), Stars in Their Eyes , Only Fools and Horses (both 1990s), and more recently, Doctor Who , Top Gear (both 2000s) and Downton Abbey (2010s).

The animated tale The Snowman has been screened for many years during the Christmas period (usually Christmas Eve or Christmas Day), and a new story, Father Christmas , by the same artist and company, is usually broadcast around the same time.[ citation needed ]

Adaptations of novels from Charles Dickens are also common around Christmas time. Along with A Christmas Carol (the most popular due to its Christmas season setting, and the message portrayed), such as Bleak House (2005), Oliver Twist (2007) and Great Expectations (2011), among others. These adaptations usually featured all-star casts.

Christmas Day begins at 12 at night with the showing of Midnight Mass on the BBC. In addition, HM Queen Elizabeth II annually broadcasts a 10-minute speech on Christmas Day at 3 p.m., charting her views of the past year and giving her own reflections and advice. Many long-running British soap operas have Christmas specials, usually involving a dramatic storyline developed over several weeks which culminates at Christmas. Often these stories are tragic, involving a death, divorce, a dramatic revelation or similar event.

Most Christmas specials in the UK are specially commissioned separately to a production season, and many are extended from the usual episode length. For example, the 2007 Doctor Who Christmas special was 71 minutes as opposed to the standard 45 minutes, was broadcast six months after the third series had finished and four months before the fourth series started. UK Christmas specials may or may not feature the holiday itself as part of the narrative.

While the season receives almost universal acknowledgement on British TV, some channels and programmes have tried "alternative" or "anti-Christmas" ideas. One example is Channel 4 which has run an Alternative Christmas message since 1993. In 2009, two movie channels renamed themselves for the season; Sky Movies Screen 2 became Sky Movies Christmas Channel and Movies 24 became Christmas 24. [10] From 2010, changes to Sky Movies line-up meant that Sky Movies Showcase was used for Sky Movies Christmas Channel. On 16 November 2012, two music channels renamed themselves; Bliss became Blissmas and Greatest Hits TV was rebranded as Christmas Hits TV.

United States

In the United States, many television series (particularly those of a family-oriented nature) produce a Christmas episode, although seldom outside of a season's production block. Stand-alone Christmas specials are also popular, from newly created animated shorts and movies to repeats of those that were popular in previous years, such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and A Charlie Brown Christmas . Some local affiliates provide the Yule Log, a block of time either on Christmas morning or both during the evening hours of Christmas Eve and Christmas morning showing footage of a fireplace, coupled with popular Christmas music. Some local affiliates that provide the Yule Log simulcast Christmas music from a radio station playing it. Every Christmas Day, ABC airs a Christmas parade at Walt Disney World Resort and along with its sister cable network, ESPN, NBA games featuring some of the league's best teams and players, broadcasting a doubleheader, [11] [12] while NBC airs an ice skating special. Many US sitcoms or dramas like to include Christmas specials in their series. NBA games airing on network television on Christmas Day are notable because it is the day the first NBA games air on network television each season. [11] [12] [13]

Christmas specials based on classical music have also been well received. Among them, in addition to the previously mentioned Amahl and the Night Visitors, have been the many telecasts of the ballet The Nutcracker , and concert specials featuring musicians such as the Boston Pops, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Cincinnati Pops, and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.


Many radio stations begin to add Christmas music to their rotation in late November, and often switch to all-Christmas programming for December 25. Some do for part of or all of December 24 as well. A few stations switch to all-Christmas music for the entire season (some beginning as early as mid-November); in Detroit, 100.3 WNIC in 2005 started Christmas music day and night on midnight of October 31 because programmers believed that at least some listeners who are attracted by the Christmas music will remain loyal listeners when the station reverts to its standard format on Boxing Day. Radio stations also broadcast traditional Western art music, such as the "Hallelujah" chorus from Handel's Messiah . Among other pieces inspired by Christmas are Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker and the popular suite drawn from it, and Johann Sebastian Bach's "Christmas Oratorio" (BWV 248). Some radio stations play Christmas music commercial-free the entire day on Christmas Day, with only interruptions for Christmas messages from station personnel and personnel from the station's parent company. Others, like 96.5 KOIT in San Francisco do on both part of or all of Christmas Eve and the entire day Christmas Day. Frequently, the first song played on an "all-Christmas" station is the popular tune It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas .

The UK music industry features the battle of the bands and artists to make it to the Christmas No. 1 spot, recognised on the first Sunday before, or on, Christmas Day. Many of these songs are festive, while others are novelty songs that remain but briefly at the top of the chart. Gospel singer Cliff Richard is a fixture of Christmas charts, appearing nearly every year, and subsequently being mocked for doing so. In more recent years the Christmas chart has been dominated by the winner of The X Factor and various social media backed records aimed to hijack the charts.

As with television, British radio programmes also schedule Christmas specials. These mainly include comedy shows such as I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue and The Now Show .

The Music Choice channels have over the past few years have begun playing Christmas music as early as the beginning of November, instead of waiting till after Thanksgiving.


Related Research Articles

TNT (American TV network) American pay television channel

TNT is an American subscription television network that is owned by WarnerMedia Entertainment, a unit of AT&T's WarnerMedia. When TNT launched in October 1988, the channel's original purpose was to air classic films and television series to which Turner Broadcasting maintained spillover rights through its sister channel SuperStation TBS ; however, since June 2001, its programming consists of television series and feature films with a focus on drama, along with some sports.

Christmas music Music associated with Christmas

Christmas music comprises a variety of genres of music on a variety of topics, religious and otherwise, regularly performed or heard around the Christmas season. Christmas carols remain a large part of the popular Christmas song canon, with numerous titles being added in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s in the United States. Subject matter ranges from the nativity of Jesus Christ, to gift-giving and merrymaking, to mythical figures surrounding the holidays such as Santa Claus and his elves. Many songs simply have a winter or seasonal theme, or have been adopted into the canon for other reasons.

<i>Yule Log</i> (TV program) Seasonal television show

The Yule Log is a television show originating in the United States, which is broadcast traditionally on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. It originally aired from 1966 to 1989 on New York City television station WPIX, which revived the broadcast in 2001. A radio simulcast of the musical portion was broadcast by WPIX-TV's former sister station, WPIX-FM, until 1988.

AMC (TV channel) American TV channel

AMC is an American basic cable television channel that is the flagship property of AMC Networks. The channel's programming primarily consists of theatrically released films, along with a limited amount of original programming. The channel's name originally stood for "American Movie Classics", but since 2002 the full name has been de-emphasized as a result of a major shift in its programming.

Hallmark Channel American cable television network

The Hallmark Channel is an American pay television cable channel owned by Crown Media Holdings, Inc., which in turn is owned by Hallmark Cards, Inc. The channel's programming is primarily targeted at families, and features a mix of television movies and miniseries, original and acquired television series, and lifestyle programs.

<i>The ABC Sunday Night Movie</i> Television program

The ABC Sunday Night Movie is a television program that aired on Sunday nights, first for a brief time in 1962 under the title Hollywood Special to supposedly replace an open time slot for the TV show Bus Stop, which was cancelled after March 1962. It then began airing regularly under its more commonly known title from late 1964 to 1998, on ABC. Since 2004, it has aired sporadically as a special program, now titled the ABC Sunday Movie of the Week, though as of the 2011-12 television season, the only films in this timeslot were aired under the Hallmark Hall of Fame banner, which transferred to ABC in that season. However, in 2014, The Hallmark Hall of Fame moved exclusively to cable on the Hallmark Channel. As a result of this, the Sunday Night Movie is now exclusively relegated to two special holiday movies, The Sound of Music every holiday season and The Ten Commandments every Easter.

<i>Hallmark Hall of Fame</i> television series

Hallmark Hall of Fame, originally called Hallmark Television Playhouse, is an anthology program on American television, sponsored by Hallmark Cards, a Kansas City-based greeting card company. The longest-running primetime series in the history of television, it first aired in 1951 and continues into the present day. From 1954 onward, all of its productions have been broadcast in color. It is one of the first video productions to telecast in color, a rarity in the 1950s. Many television movies have been shown on the program since its debut, though the program began with live telecasts of dramas and then changed to videotaped productions before finally changing to filmed ones.

<i>Amahl and the Night Visitors</i> opera by Gian Carlo Menotti

Amahl and the Night Visitors is an opera in one act by Gian Carlo Menotti with an original English libretto by the composer. It was commissioned by NBC and first performed by the NBC Opera Theatre on December 24, 1951, in New York City at NBC studio 8H in Rockefeller Center, where it was broadcast live on television from that venue as the debut production of the Hallmark Hall of Fame. It was the first opera specifically composed for television in America.

Observance of Christmas by country traditions of celebrating Christmas around the world

The observance of Christmas around the world varies by country. The day of Christmas, and in some cases the day before and the day after, are recognized by many national governments and cultures worldwide, including in areas where Christianity is a minority religion. In some non-Christian areas, periods of former colonial rule introduced the celebration ; in others, Christian minorities or foreign cultural influences have led populations to observe the holiday.

Christmas in July is a Christmas celebration held in July, the nature of which differs by hemisphere.

Christmas creep is a merchandising phenomenon in which merchants and retailers introduce Christmas-themed merchandise or decorations before the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, which in the United States is on the day after Thanksgiving. The term was first used in the mid-1980s.

25 Days of Christmas television series

25 Days of Christmas is an annual season of Christmas programming broadcast during the month of December by the U.S. cable network Freeform. The event was first held in 1996, and has been annual fixture of the channel through its various incarnations, including The Family Channel, Fox Family, ABC Family, and Freeform. The brand covers airings of classic holiday specials as well as new Christmas-themed television movies each year; generally few of the network's original series air during the time period, outside of Christmas-themed episodes. In 2006, the lineup has also included airings of general, family films that Freeform holds rights to, which included the Harry Potter films until January 2018, and other Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures films. In 2007, the block was extended to November with a Countdown to 25 Days of Christmas block. 25 Days of Christmas programming often attracts major surges in viewership for Freeform, with higher-profile film airings often attracting 3-4 million viewers or more.

Secular Christmas stories

There exists a wide range of secular Christmas stories, told in popular music, on television, and in the cinema, that are told about the Christian holiday of Christmas, that may be based on or allegorize the biblical Christian mythology of Christmas, as the birth of Jesus, but not necessarily. The stories may also have newer interpretations and introduce new characters. These secular Christmas stories could be classified as mythopoeia, or Christian allegories.

The afternoon movie was a popular practice of local television stations from the 1950s through the 1970s. It consisted of the daily weekday showing of old films usually between 12:30 and 2:00 P.M; if the film ran two hours or more, it was split into two parts. Atlanta local station WSB-TV, for instance, would show films in this time slot under the umbrella title Armchair Playhouse. Popular titles, such as the 1953 House of Wax, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, the 1935 Mutiny on the Bounty, the 1949 The Secret Garden, or National Velvet (1944), would often turn up as afternoon movies. During the Christmas season, such films as Gulliver's Travels (1939), Hansel and Gretel: An Opera Fantasy (1954), or A Christmas Carol (1938) would sometimes be telecast on local stations after the network telecast of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.

Christmas in the post-war United States Christmas celebrations and traditions in the United States post-World War II

Christmas in the United States during the post-war years (1946–1964) reflected a period of peace, productivity, and prosperity. Americans staged sumptuous Christmases and enjoyed a variety of holiday foods unknown to previous generations. Several films, foods, toys, and television programs of the era have become American Christmas traditions.

Games held by the National Basketball Association (NBA) on Christmas Day, December 25, have been an annual tradition since the league's second season in 1947. Currently, five games are played on Christmas. Unlike the National Football League (NFL)'s traditional Thanksgiving Day games, the NBA's Christmas Day games have no fixed opponents; rather, they feature some of the best teams and players. Very often a rematch of the previous season's NBA Finals is showcased on Christmas Day.

Christmas in Romania Christmas celebrations and traditions in Romania

Christmas in Romania is a major annual celebration, celebrated on 24/25 of December, as in most countries of the Christian world. The observance of Christmas was introduced once with the Christianization of Romania but it was then interrupted during the Communist period (1948—1989), as concepts as religion, Jesus Christ or the Church were banned. In the post-communist Romania, Christmas started being celebrated again more festively.

Christmas traditions in Australia, like Christmas in New Zealand, have many similarities to British, Irish, American and Canadian traditions, including traditional Christmas symbols featuring winter iconography. This means a red fur-coated Father Christmas or Santa Claus riding a sleigh, songs such as "Jingle Bells", and various Christmas scenes on Christmas cards and decorations. However, the timing of Christmas occurring during the Southern Hemisphere's summer season has resulted in the development of some local traditions as a result of the warmer weather.


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