Tag Archives: christmas

HPL Staff: Holiday Traditions

23 Dec

It’s almost Christmas! Similar to last month’s #Gratitude post, I asked my Hoboken Public Library colleagues about their favorite Christmas books, films, and music. Following are their favorites, which are available at the library or through interlibrary loan.

Dear readers, have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

-Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

santa-mouse

Image via Amazon

Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

My favorite holiday tradition as a child was when each year after stuffing ourselves with Thanksgiving turkey my mom would pull out our personal collection of Christmas books from storage so that bedtime was full of stories of reindeer, snow men, and elves. Our December library visits also found us lugging home books with a holiday theme. Now I love getting to read Christmas stories to my own son. My favorite as a kid that I enjoy getting to share with him is Santa Mouse by Michael Brown and illustrated by Elfrieda DeWitt, which features an adorable mouse who decides to give Santa a present of his own. It is available from several BCCLS libraries. Of course there are plenty of other books my son likes as well; several of his current favorites are How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas? by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Mark Teague, Merry Christmas, Splat by Rob Scotton, and A Pirate’s Twelve Days of Christmas by Philip Yates and illustrations by Sebastia Serra. I also delight in reading my own holiday themed books; some of my favorite choices for adults are Rhys Bowen’s The Twelve Clues of Christmas, Donna Andrews’s The Nightingale Before Christmas, and Miracle, and Other Christmas Stories by Connie Willis.

 

 

its-a-wonderful-life

Sharlene Edwards, Senior Children’s Librarian

I love old-timey black and white films. I enjoy the thoughtful dialogue and the simplicity of old school visual effects. My top five B&W movies in order: Miracle on 34th Street12 Angry Men, Invasion of the Body SnatchersThe Bad Seed (have you seen this movie?!), and It’s a Wonderful Life, which also happens to be my favorite movie of ALL-TIME. I even have a dog named Zuzu!

I’ve watched IAWL at least once a year (usually twice a year) for the past 15 years. My mom and I have a tradition on Thanksgiving which involves getting comfy on the couch, flipping on the film, and crying tears upon tears of joy. For those not familiar with the film, the story revolves around George Bailey, a kind and passionate soul who puts others’ needs before his own, often to his own detriment. George finds himself in serious trouble after his scatterbrained uncle’s actions result in a warrant for George’s arrest. Convincing himself that he is more valuable to his family dead than alive due to a life insurance policy, George resolve to throw himself off the local bridge. An angel named Clarence intervenes and, after failing to convince George that his life is valuable, he decides to show George by unveiling an alternate reality in which George has never been born. As the two explore this new reality, it becomes increasingly apparent just how many lives George has influenced in positive ways…and how much worse off everyone would be if George had never existed.

This movie is a heartwarming annual reminder that “each man’s life touches so many other lives” and “no man is a failure who has friends.” Gosh, I’m practically tearing up as I write this!

Shannon Campbell, Children’s Librarian

Every Christmas Eve night, after all the family festivities have occurred, my family and I cuddle up in our living room and watch It’s a Wonderful Life. Despite watching it every year, I’ve always fallen asleep during the second half of the film (to ensure that Santa will come, of course). Sadly, I have never actually seen the second half. But I usually do wake up just in time for the famous quote: “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”

charlie-brown-christmas
Carolyn Hartwick, Account Clerk

Aside from the smell of gingerbread, for me Christmas is all about the music. I would have these songs playing the entire month of December if it did not irritate the rest of my family.  My playlist: Nat King Cole’s Christmas for Kids From One to Ninety-TwoBing Crosby’s Christmas, Diana Krall’s Christmas SongsThe Complete Christmas Recordings of Andy Williams, Light of the Stable by Emmylou Harris, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and Martin Sexton’s Camp Holiday.  An additional gift is that all this holiday music is available through BCCLS!

santa-claus
Kim Iacucci, Young Adult Librarian
I love Christmas movies! Every year I have to watch certain movies and TV specials before it truly feels like the holiday season to me. I always start on Thanksgiving night with the original Miracle on 34th Street and end on Christmas day with repeated viewings of A Christmas Story. It’s a tradition that’s been going on since I was a kid.

Many of my favorites are movies that are already popular, such as National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or Elf, so I’ll recommend one that doesn’t seem as well-known… Santa Claus: The Movie (1985) starring David Huddleston, Dudley Moore and John Lithgow. When I was little I thought that this was the true story of Kris Kringle since it starts out with his origin story, explaining how a simple toymaker became the world-famous gift giver. Today, this movie still has magic and nostalgia and makes me excited for the holiday. If you need to get into the spirit of the season, I’d suggest adding this film to your preparations. The movie can be borrowed from the library.

 

 

muppet-christmas-carol

Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

Every Christmas I like to watch The Muppet Christmas Carol, based on Charles Dickens’ classic story A Christmas Carol. The movie features original music, the lyrics of which I still remember since first hearing them when I was 10. “Scrooge”, which introduces Ebenezer Scrooge (played by Michael Caine), includes the line “no cheeses for us meeces [sic]” sung by the Muppet mice that never fails to crack me up. Here is a clip of that song from YouTube.

My family is also Jewish, so we celebrate Hanukkah. Without a doubt more music, film, and movies are dedicated to Christmas, but we like to listen to Adam Sandler’s four iterations of “The Chanukah Song”. The original and Part 2 can be streamed on Hoopla Digital, and Part 3 is on the soundtrack for Eight Crazy Nights. Part 4 can be heard on YouTube, which we replayed over and over again during Thanksgiving, laughing and giving thanks for Adam Sandler being a mensch and filling the Hanukkah music void.

 

 

Have an Un-Expected Cinematic Christmas

17 Dec

Within a week, you will have watched multiple showings of It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, Classic (with Natalie Wood and Maureen O’Hara) and Light (with Mara Wood and Elizabeth Perkins), and binge-watched a 24 hour showing of The Christmas Story, the ultimate and irreverent holiday movie for people who want to “shoot your eye out” for Christmas.  Now, me, I like to mix up my holiday movies with new and old, classic and irreverent and with a side trip to the multiplex for whatever is opening on Christmas Day for those without family commitments.  If you need a stack of films with just a soupcon of Christmas cheer or a full out jolly holiday flick, consider some of this assortment of titles:

The Christmas Carol has many cinematic incarnations.  Here are three that you may not have seen, that are personal favorites of mine:

a christmas carol kelsey grammar

The Christmas Carol with music by Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens.  TV’s Kelsey Grammer plays the unrepentant Ebeneezer Scrooge with some Broadway-style music that you will love.   My two favorites: “A Place Called Home”, sung by Jennifer Love Hewitt , and Ruthie Henshall’s “God bless us Everyone” are among the prettiest Christmas songs that you’ve probably never heard.  The only problem with this movie is that it was made for TV and retains the cuts/edits for commercial placement.

scrooge

Scrooge with music by Leslie Bricusse.  In this musical version, Albert Finney plays miserly Scrooge.  The music by Bricusse (who also wrote the music for the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) includes one production number that later showed up, in of all things, a Volkswagen commercial.  The song called “Thank You Very Much” is a guaranteed earworm (one of those songs that will stick in your head long after the holiday).  Albert Finney manages to be sprightly as Scrooge, if such a thing is possible.  Scrooge’s suggestion that Bob Cratchett stuff a duck into a very large turkey made me think of only one thing: turkducken!

scrooged

Scrooged with Bill Murray as Ebeneezer-ish Frank Cross is memorable for all the wrong reasons.  My two favorite scenes are Bill Murray trying to staple antlers on a mouse for a TV musical with Mary Lou Retton as Tiny Tim, and the always hilarious Carol Kane as the Ghost of Christmas Present makes it astoundingly funny.

auntie mame

Moving away from Ebeneezer and company, you must stop by Beekman Place, NYC, for a visit with the ever ebullient Auntie Mame.  If you have never watched this movie with the wonderful Rosalind Russell as Mame Dennis, you must see it at least once or, to quote Mame, you simply haven’t lived. Based on a novel by Patrick Dennis, the movie follows Mame’s escapades from her adoption of her orphaned nephew through his near marriage to the wrong person.  The Christmas tie-in is the Depression year when Mame gets fired from a job selling toys in a department store because she only knows how to write up credit receipts.  Yes, the musical version of this story (Mame, with Lucille Ball), was a great hit and had a catchy Jerry Herman score, but nothing – nothing – beats Rosalind Russell uttering the best known line: “Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death.  Live!”

little women 1933

Little Women in any of its three versions: Katherine Hepburn as a most believable Jo March, June Allyson as a mid-twentieth century technicolor Jo March (strange casting), or the most recent and true-to-the-book Winona Ryder version with Susan Sarandon as a wise Marmie. The March sisters conveying the true spirit of Christmas by selling back their treasured presents to buy their mother a pair of slippers, and giving their Christmas breakfast to the poor Hummel family is definitely worthy of the season.

nighmare before christmas

The Nightmare Before Christmas raises the eternal question, is this a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie?  The answer is it’s either one and rewatching Tim Burton’s brilliant animation of how the king of Halloweentown, Jack Skellington, simply doesn’t get Christmas.  However, once he discovers the holiday, he turns his efforts to recruiting the denizens of Halloweentown to celebrate the other holiday.

apartment

The Apartment directed by Billy Wilder is one of my top ten favorite movies of all time.  It starts at a rowdy, Mad Men style Christmas office party and ends with Jack Lemmon and Shirley Maclaine planning their future Christmases, together.  In between is the stylish humor and pathos that only Wilder was able to combine in a film.  One of the best closing lines: “Cut the cards and deal.”

meet me in st louis

Meet Me In Saint Louis with Judy Garland is a truly classic musical and features the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” with Garland’s heart-tearing vibrato.  This is the story of the Smith family in the year before the St. Louis Exposition, a celebration of the greatness of the early twentieth century city.  Esther Smith (Garland) falls in love with “the boy next door,” Tom Drake just in time for her father to be offered a job in New York.  Playing Garland’s little sister, Tootie, is Margaret O’Brien, a great child star of the 1940s and early 1950s, whose specialty was crying on command.  The important trivia related to this movie is that Garland married the director, Vincent Minnelli, and then gave birth to their daughter, Liza, who made her first screen appearance in another musical, In the Good Old Summertime, at the age of one year.

annie

Before the newest version of Annie hits the screen, next week, with Q. Wallis playing the orphan (only this time with eyes and no red hair), go back to the original and hear what the Charles Strouse score sounds like without a hip-hop update.  Aileen Quinn is the redheaded moppet;  Albert Finney, in another musical treasure, is the bald but benevolent Daddy Warbucks; and Carol Burnett is terrific as Miss Hannigan.  There was a later, TV version of the show with Alicia Morton as the moppet, Victor Garber as Daddy Warbucks, and Kathy Bates as Miss Hannigan.  Trivia for this made-for-TV movie: “Star to Be” (a sort of cameo part) is played by Andrea McArdle who belted out “Tomorrow” as Annie in the original Broadway production.

These and so many more Christmas-themed movies will get you through the post-holiday letdown with music, dance, and some-off-the-wall holiday interpretations, and all available through BCCLS libraries.

-Written by Lois Rubin Gross, Senior Children’s Librarian

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