Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

May all your Christmases be Merry 
With nary a Grinch in sight.
May you enjoy time with friends & family
And may all your New Years be Bright!

Merry Christmas!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Quote of the Week

From all of us to all of you
A very Merry Christmas
And at this joyful time of year
We want you to be with us
So gather round our lovely tree
Where all the lights are shining
We'll be as happy as can be
While all the bells are chiming

Ding, dong, dingle
What a merry sound
Ding, dong, dingle
Kris Kringle is in town

From all of us to all of you
Can't wait until you're with us
We'll meet beneath the mistletoe
And say a Merry Christmas!

- Jiminy Cricket, Disney Christmas Favourites 1958

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Movies for Adults

While these movies mostly don't contain obvious adult themes, most kids would find them boring. I love these Christmas movies and have watched all of them many, many times.

White Christmas - This has been my favorite Christmas movie for as long as I can remember. Starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera Ellen, this is a fantastic story about helping an old friend. Bing and Danny are a popular song and dance duo who agree to help Rosemary and Vera with their act. The girls are the sisters of an "old pal in the army." When they follow the sisters up to Vermont for the Christmas holidays, they run into their old general from their army days during WWII, who has fallen on hard times. In an effort to help him out, they decide to bring their show up to his inn to bring in guests. After many crazy mishaps, everything comes together just in time for Christmas. Featuring many wonderful songs, including "Sisters", "Count Your Blessings" and "White Christmas", this is one you shouldn't miss.

Miracle on 34th Street - Is he "the one and only Santa Claus" or "just a nice old man with whiskers like mother said"? Starring Maureen O'Hara, Natalie Wood, and Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle, this is a wonderful story that will make everyone believe again. Kris Kringle is hired to be Santa in the Macy's Thanksgiving day Parade. He is so wonderful, that they decide to keep him on as the official Santa of Macy's. With Kris's help, everyone begins to put the spirit back into Christmas. When he angers one of the employees, he is put on trial for insanity. Can his lawyer prove that he is Santa?

The Man Who Saved Christmas - This is the amazing story of A.C. "Gillie" Gilbert, inventor of Erector Sets. After years of making toys with the help of his beloved wife, Mary,  and brother, Frank, Gillie is presented with a problem. America has recently joined the fighting during WWI and his brother has been drafted. Gillie is asked to convert his factory to make munitions instead of toys. After a chance comment leads Congress to cancel Christmas, Gillie's son Al and his mother create some holiday magic to help Gillie recover his holiday spirit and save Christmas. Starring the incomparable Jason Alexander as Gillie, this movie, although sad at times, is wonderful proof that Christmas should always be celebrated.

Silent Night - Another in the tradition of Christmas during times of war films. Based on a true story and starring Linda Hamilton, this is the story of young Fritz and his mother, who are fleeing Germany on Christmas Eve 1944. Fritz and Elizabeth Vincken leave their home in the dark of night and head for their cabin near the front lines. Before they can settle in for Christmas, a knock at the door brings both American soldiers with their injured comrade, and German soldiers searching for the enemy. Frau Vincken, a very strong-willed woman, forces them to relinquish their weapons and spend Christmas together. By the end of the evening, they have begun to see each other as men and not as enemies.

The Holiday - For a twist on traditional Christmas movies, try The Holiday. When two women worlds apart each suffer heartbreak shortly before Christmas, they decide to swap houses for a change of scenery. Through a series of misadventures, each finds that love can be found again and Christmas may be the perfect time for something new. Starring Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, and Jack Black, this is a fun Christmas romance. And I love the way Kate Winslet's character helps her elderly neighbor to see that he is important and loved. It's wonderful!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Hanukkah!

Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, begins tonight at sundown. Hanukkah lasts eight nights, ending on December 28th this year. The first candle on the menorah will be lit tonight. Hanukkah celebrates the triumph of the light over the darkness, a triumph of the spirit. Hanukkah is a time to remember a time, some 21 centuries ago, when a small band of Jews defeated the invading armies of the Greeks. When they returned to the Temple to reclaim it and light the menorah, they discovered that only one cruse of olive oil had escaped contamination. This oil, which should have burned for only one day, miraculously burned for eight days, allowing time for new oil to be prepared with ritual purity. The sages instituted the celebration of Hanukkah so that all would know of the miracle. Other Hanukkah traditions include eating foods fried in oil, such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiot (doughnuts), and playing with the dreidel, a spinning top whose symbols represent the phrase "a great miracle happened there." Children receive presents at this time as well as gelt (chocolate coins) or money.

I am not Jewish, but I enjoy experiencing the traditions of other cultures and sharing them with my family. If you would like to know more about Hanukkah, please visit the chabad.org website which offers a wealth of information about Hanukkah as well as other Jewish holidays.

Chanuka Sameach!
Happy Hanukkah!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Quote of the Week

"I will honor Christmas in my heart,
and try to keep it all the year."
- Charles Dickens

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Quote of the Week

"As long as there's Christmas I truly believe
That hope is the greatest of the gifts we'll receive
As long as our guiding star shines above
There'll always be Christmas
So there always will be a time
When the world is filled with peace and love."

- Beauty & the Beast: Enchanted Christmas

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Movies for Kids, Part 2

And now onto movies for kids aged 6 and up. While some of these movies would be appropriate for a younger audience, I believe older children will get more out of them. Also, several of these films question the existence of Santa Claus, who, by the way, I firmly believe in. As such, I would recommend that you show these at what you consider to be an appropriate age.

Beauty and the Beast: Enchanted Christmas - This film was just recently released on Blu-ray and DVD. I love this story of how Beauty and the Beast came together at Christmas and learned what is truly important about the season, sharing love with others. Featuring the original cast of voices as well as introducing a few new characters, such as Maestro Forte, voiced by the inestimable Tim Curry. Full of songs and a beautiful message of hope and love, this is a great movies to share with children. It does have a few moments that may be scary to young viewers, so I would recommend you watch the film first so that you can gauge how appropriate this may be for your child.

 Yes, Virginia - Based on the true story of a letter written by young Virginia O'Hanlon in 1897 to the editor of the New York Sun, this story is perfect for those children who are beginning to question the existence of Santa Claus. Created by Macy's as part of their Believe campaign, the story of Virginia and her young friend Ollie and their search for the "truth" is a very sweet retelling of this heartwarming tale. Featuring the vocal talents of Neil Patrick Harris, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Alfred Molina, this is one story every child should know.

The Santa Clause Trilogy - I love the Santa Clause movies. At first, I wasn't too sure about Tim Allen as Santa, but after the first film, I loved him as Santa. The first film tells about how an executive for a toy company became Santa, much to the delight of his son Charlie. The second tells the story of how Santa must seek a wife or he'll have to stop being Santa. The third tells about Santa and Mrs. Claus and their baby that will soon be born. Will Santa stay Santa or will he employ the "Escape Clause?" They are great films that support the existence of Santa Claus in an ever changing form.

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus - Based on a story by L. Frank Baum, author of the Wizard of Oz series, this movie offers a unique explanation for Santa's origins. According to Baum, Santa began life as an infant abandoned near an enchanted forest. Baby Nicholas was taken in by a wood nymph named Nyseal who raised him in a magical world. The Great Ak, leader of the forest teaches Nicholas about the sad and difficult world of humans, leading him to his lifelong gift-giving mission. This film features an amazing cast of voices, including Robby Benson, Dixie Carter, and Hal Holbrook.

Santa and Pete - This unique film has been one of my favorites since the first time I saw it. This is the story of the Dutch Santa (the amazing Hume Cronyn) and his helper, Black Peter. The story begins with master storyteller James Earl Jones as a Grandfather teaching his grandson about Santa and Pete. Full of wonderful references the historical Santa, this story tells about what happens when Santa and Pete arrive in the New World. Although Santa is rather set in his ways, their adventures in New Amsterdam force him to rethink his Christmas traditions.

The Polar Express - I still remember fondly the first time I heard the story of the Polar Express. The story, although brief, was wonderful, with beautiful pictures. The story soon became a phenomenon, with trains being transformed into the Polar Express for one night of Christmas fantasy for lucky boys and girls. To make the story long enough for a movie, they expanded on many of the scenes and added some new ones that fit within the feeling of the original. This is the tale of an incredible journey and the boy who isn't sure what to believe about Santa. Every child has a "critical year" where they question the existence of Santa. Can you imagine what would happen if every child could ride the Polar Express? Maybe everyone would believe. After watching this film for the first time, Bean became obsessed with it. For Christmas that year, I gave her a golden ticket (a bookmark from Hallmark I think) and her own special bell. I wrapped the bell in candy cane striped paper and labeled it "Found this on the seat of my sleigh. Fix that hole in your pocket. Mr. C" just like in the book and movie. She still loves the bell, several years later, and always talks about how sad it is that some grown ups can't hear it ring, but she'll always be able to. This may be our favorite family Christmas movie.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Quote of the Week

"Christmas isn't about candy canes, or lights all aglow,
it's the hearts that we touch,and the care that we show."
- Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Advent Calendars

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is the advent calendar. They come in all types, shapes and sizes. Some, such as the German ones, have doors with chocolates behind them. Some have instructions for activities for Christmas like the tree-shaped one from Family Fun. Some have toys (I love the Lego and Playmobil advent calendars, especially the Playmobil Woodland Santa Set.) Some are boxes, bags, or pockets that can be filled with small presents. Some have a marker that you move each day, like the one from the Disney Store. All help children pass the days while counting down to Christmas.

My favorite advent calendar has been a part of my family's Christmas traditions for as long as I can remember. Its a fabric panel with a house full of bears preparing for Christmas. At the bottom are instructions for moving a small stuffed bear as he seeks out Christmas. My Grandmother made the calendar many years ago. About 15 years ago, my mother, sister, and I embellished it with glittery snow and stars. My sister and I used to have the special job of moving the bear each morning. Every other day, it was my turn and I loved it! The only exception was December 20, my Mom's birthday. On that day, she got to move the bear. (I recently searched for this advent calendar on Ebay so that I could have one in my own home only to discover that they sell for $350 or more!)

A few years ago, Bean and I got to spend all of December with my Mom. It was the first year that she got to see the bear. She loved him just as much as I always did. She would race to the calendar every morning and wait for Grandma or I to read the instructions so she could move the bear. It was wonderful seeing how much she enjoyed this family tradition.

Disney Store Countdown
This year, we have a few advent calendars. I have a paper bakery full of bearded elves with winter animals and Christmas toys behind the doors. My sister has the corduroy wall hanging with Mickey and a present you move from day to day. And Bean has a set of pennant pockets full of little presents (at least she will have a full set if I ever get around to finishing them!), and a new Playmobil Santa's Post Office set.

These calendars are a wonderful part of the holiday season. No child should be without one!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Happy Birthday, Walt!

Disneyland Partners Statue



On this day in 1901, Walter Elias Disney was born in Chicago, Illinois. Walt Disney created what has surely become one of the most beloved characters ever... Mickey Mouse. In addition to this, he invented many other wonderful characters and changed the way we think of theme parks forever. In celebration of all that he accomplished during his life, I would like to say...

Happy Birthday, Walt!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Quote of the Week

“When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.” -- Walt Disney