By Nadia Brophy
It’s that time of year again - the one that gets you seated by a warm fireplace, curled up in a blanket with hot cocoa in hand, eyes glued to the TV screen. Ladies and gentleman, it’s Christmas time, and I’d like to gift you with a curated list of some Canadian holiday favourites to get you in the mood for celebrating this special season.
1. Coming Home for Christmas (2017)
Nothing quite beats the feeling of flicking on the Hallmark Channel at this time of year and immersing oneself in a feel-good Christmas romance. In doing so, you may come across Coming Home for Christmas, a romantic comedy following the complicated love life of Lizzie Richfield, a house manager for an estate in Virginia. The film focuses on Lizzie’s task in planning a Christmas Eve gala before the estate is sold. During this time, she finds herself caught up in the life of Robert Marley, a member of the family who owns the estate, as she begins to fall for him while also being pursued by Robert’s brother Kip. If you’re not a huge fan of keeping up with complicated love triangles, I urge you to still give the film a chance simply for its beautiful Canadian scenery. Despite being a dual American-Canadian production, all of the scenes in Coming Home for Christmas were filmed in picturesque British Columbia. Canadians from the west will recognize the towns and landscapes of Abbotsford and Langley, B.C., which bear striking resemblance to the intricate Christmas village sets that occupy our mantles during this season.
2. The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017)
Romance is all good and fun, but perhaps you’d prefer to indulge in a bit of Christmas history. How about a biopic drama about one of the season’s most beloved authors, Charles Dickens, portrayed by Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens in the Irish-Canadian production The Man Who Invented Christmas. This film chronicles the author’s true story of emergence from financial difficulty after he publishes three novels that fail to gain success in England’s literary scene. After gaining some new-found inspiration, Dickens sets his focus on writing the renowned story of Ebenezer Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, A Christmas Carol. What arguably makes the film most intriguing is watching Dickens’ characters come to life as he writes them into existence. The audience is treated to humorous interactions between the author and the infamous humbug played by Canada’s own Christopher Plummer. The film’s score was written by Canadian composer Mychael Danna and features a series of ambient orchestral works that emulate the feeling of waking up on a snowy Christmas morning.
3. The Nutcracker Prince (1990)
I think we can all agree that there’s something very special about watching animated films during this season. Perhaps it’s the giddy child in us that grew up watching The Grinch and A Charlie Brown Christmas on repeat leading up to Christmas day. If you’re looking to feel that childlike excitement again, The Nutcracker Prince will surely fulfill that desire. Based on the classic story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A Hoffmann, the Canadian animated fantasy tells the tale of a young man - voiced by Canadian actor Kiefer Sutherland - who has been cursed to live his life as a nutcracker doll gifted to a girl named Clara on Christmas Eve. When Clara finds out that the curse can be broken if the Nutcracker defeats the sinister Mouse King responsible for the curse and wins the heart of a maiden, she embarks on a fantastical journey to help her special toy become his true self once more. Part of her journey leads her to be shrunken down and transported through the Land of Dolls where Christmas is brought to life on screen through images of elegant white swans, massive evergreen forests and a towering candy palace. If you haven’t already been convinced to add this enchanting film to your Christmas to-watch list, it is also accompanied by the famed music from The Nutcracker ballet, a classic seasonal production that follows the same story.
4. The Legend of Frosty the Snowman (2005)
Yes, you did read that right - the ever-classic The Legend of Frosty the Snowman does indeed fall under the category of Canadiana Christmas. While the film was, in fact, a co-production between America and Canada, part of the animated tale was created by former Vancouver-based animation company Studio B Productions. The film also features the voice talents of Tara Strong, a Toronto native whose work includes Rugrats, Powerpuff Girls and Fairly Odd Parents. This classic animated fantasy is set in the fictional town of Evergreen, where children are forced to abide by a strict curfew and told not to participate in any fun activities. But that all begins to change when a black top hat escapes from a mysterious trunk that has been locked away in an attic for years and gives life to the most fun-filled presence of all - Frosty the Snowman. The magical character quickly wins over the hearts of the children in Evergreen as he encourages them to enjoy the winter season while it lasts. The plot begins to take a wicked turn when an antagonizing force leads Frosty to his demise and steals his hat in an effort to keep the town absent of fun. But that doesn’t stop the children of Evergreen from embarking on a quest to reclaim their snowy companion’s hat in an effort to restore the spirit of magic in their somber town.
5. Silent Night (2002)
When looking for films to get us ready for this joyful holiday, we traditionally wouldn’t reach for a dark flick with intense subject matter. But for those of us who are looking for a little more depth and substance in our films - still keeping with the spirit of Christmas, of course - can turn to Silent Night, a fact-based story set on Christmas Eve during World War II. The film follows a German woman and her son who attempt to escape the dangers of war by fleeing to an isolated cabin in the Ardennes forest. It is not long before their cabin is invaded by groups of American soldiers and their German enemies. The interaction would have ended in a bloodbath if it weren’t for the mother who, after much struggle, is able to convince the German soldiers to set aside their contentions with the Americans and partake in a Christmas Eve dinner together. The soldiers eventually build unlikely friendships that supersede the tension that once existed between them. While I wouldn’t list Silent Night under the ‘feel-good’ category we’re all familiar with during the holidays, I would nevertheless label it a film that captures the spirit of Christmas in bringing people together to celebrate the season.