Come Christmas there is one movie I have to watch every year, a 1952 British sideboard drama called 'The holly and the ivy.' It doesn't appear on any North American cable channel and is not available on DVD, but luckily I have an old VHS copy that allows me to endulge in some Yuletide reminiscencing.---
I offer it as the best Christmas flick ever simply because of its perfect, low-key drama and beautifully depiction of a classic English family Christmas. The Gregory family gather at the house of Reverend Martin Gregory, a robust Ralph Richardson, for Christmas Eve. Family tragedies are unearthed, notably the gorgeous Margaret Leighton's Margaret Gregory, who, as her sister says, "crackles like ice," and carries not only the death of her American bomber lover but also her son.
It's a genteel, theatrical character study set against a studio backdrop depiction of a parson's home and snow-blanketed countryside. Mostly I guess I watch it ritually every year because it takes me back to my own childhood, to the church I would attend every Christmas morning before the family turkey which my mother basted one last time even as we ran out of the door for the service. There was the rich tapestry of Christmas hymns to look forward to singing, then after lunch and the Queen's speech at 3 pm on the radio, the special treat of a tin of Quality Street sweet and satsumas [tangerines] to enjoy.
While I struggle to find quite the same meaning to Christmas I associate with growing up, it's never far away. I'm grateful to my neighbor Bob who plays Santa for my children.They still believe - but for how much longer? - in the big red guy. He'll come over on Christmas Eve and there'll be that magical sounds of sleigh bells in the air and my children's sleepy eyes and red cheeks peeking round the side of the hall wall to gaze in awe at the figure bent over by the Christmas tree.