Christmas nights at home

These are some of the movies, books and music we enjoy on nights at home during Advent (between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day) and Christmas (the 12 days beginning on Christmas Day and leading up to Epiphany). If you’re looking for things to do, perhaps you’ll recognize some of them as among your favorite activities, too, and perhaps others will offer some new ideas that appeal to you.

| Index of Christmas posts | Movies | Storybooks | Plan holiday activities |
| Songbooks | Music | Anthologies & Essays | Bible Studies | Poems | Fiction |

Watch: Favorite movies

Links are to the Internet Movie Database:
Muppet Christmas Carol

  • Miracle on 34th St. (1947); see comments in a previous post.
  • Muppet Christmas Carol (1992); Michael Caine. This wonderful adaptation is not too scary for young kids, but still true to Dickens. The word “classic” must have been invented for Dickens’ Christmas Carol; no Christmas would be complete without this profoundly moving story of hope and joy. The soundtrack of this film is wonderful as well. No other adaptation of Dickens even comes close.
  • The Bishop’s Wife (1947); Cary Grant, Loretta Young, David Niven. After watching this one (and It’s a Wonderful Life), talk about the role of angels in the nativity accounts; then celebrate with “angel” carols: Angels we have heard on high; Hark, the Herald Angels Sing; It Came Upon the Midnight Clear; O Come, All ye Faithful, etc. Discuss the positive emphasis of these two movies on the significance of persons in history (including guardian angels). Also discuss their mixture of angel folklore with biblical teaching.
  • It’s A Wonderful Life (1946, Frank Capra); Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore. This is my all-time favorite movie, but it’s not for every child – two of our daughters didn’t enjoy it until at least their mid-teen years. We certainly did not make them watch it. The idea of not-being is creepy, but this is the kind of hope-affirming movie that grows on one. The movie ends with Auld Lang Syne. This final scene, along with the movie’s message of hope and friendship (“No man is a failure who has friends”), makes it perfect for watching on New Year’s Eve.
    • Joseph Tkach offers three 2-minute meditations on It’s a Wonderful Life: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
    • Jimmy Hawkins recounts some wonderful stories about the making of It’s a Wonderful Life: Wonderful Memories of It’s a Wonderful Life Wonderful Memories of It's a Wonderful Life (Unabridged) - Jimmy Hawkins (with a companion scrapbook).
  • White Christmas (1954); Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney. No wonder my daughters grew up with a love of dancing! “Oh, the theater, the theater….” And: “Snow, snow, snow….” Year after year, “White Christmas” remains the most popular song ever recorded. Excellent movie to watch when you’re snowed in.
  • The Snowman (1982); based on a storybook by Peter Auty, David Bowie and Raymond Briggs. The story is achingly beautiful, as is “Walking in the Air,” a magical song that contains the only spoken words of the imaginatively-crafted film (. The sense of longing evoked by this film makes it quite appropriate for Advent, a similar time of longing. The boy’s joy in the snowfall expresses the openness of his imagination to a world of beauty and relationship, for which he longs. The scarf reminds him that the reality for which he longs remains real, however elusive it may seem in this world. Those unwilling to grieve are unable to long for eternal joy. For our tender daughters, I would note the film’s implication that Santa lives in the heaven for snow-people at the North Pole, which turned their sorrow to a constructive imaginative effect. Perfect on a snowy evening after making a snowman outside.
  • Charlie Brown Christmas (1965). Not only is this a classic, with a heartwarming story and excellent soundtrack, but it’s a great way to read aloud Luke’s account of the nativity. (See also the Digital pop-up for iPad.)
  • The Nativity Story (2006). We appreciate the realistic setting of this movie, despite the forced comedic interludes with the magi. It’s a great conversation starter for discussing what Mary and Joseph’s life together was like, especially their journey to Bethlehem.
  • Little Women (1994). See here and here.
  • Veggie Tales, The Toy That Saved Christmas
  • Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit; narrated by Meryl Streep. As appropriate for Christmas as for Easter.
  • The Lion and the Lamb (VHS); narrated by Christopher Reeve and Amy Grant.
  • Christmas in Connecticut (1945); Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Sydney Greenstreet. The DVD contains “Star in the Night,” a heart-warming, Oscar-winning short video set in the old West inspired by the story of the magi. I look forward to “Star in the Night” and make a point to watch it each year.
  • It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947): I can’t believe we have missed this one all these years! Thanks to Laura for showing it to us at her home this Christmas (2011). It’s now one of my favorites.

| Index of Christmas posts | Movies | Storybooks | Plan holiday activities |
| Songbooks | Music | Anthologies & Essays | Bible Studies | Poems | Fiction |

Read aloud: Favorite storybooks

The Huron CarolLinks are to Amazon:

It has been my usual habit to present the family with a new illustrated Christmas storybook each year.

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| Songbooks | Music | Anthologies & Essays | Bible Studies | Poems | Fiction |

Plan: Holiday activities

Ann Hibbard, Family Celebrations

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| Songbooks | Music | Anthologies & Essays | Bible Studies | Poems | Fiction |

Sing: Favorite Christmas songbooks and books about carols

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Listen: Favorite recordings

George Winston, December (Windham Hill)Ones I feel like I can’t miss (in alphabetical order):

  • Steve Bell, The Feast of Seasons (lyrics)
  • Steve Bell, Keening for the Dawn (includes poetry by Malcolm Guite) (background)
  • Mary Chapin Carpenter, Come Darkness, Come Light Come Darkness, Come Light - Mary Chapin Carpenter
  • Bruce Cockburn, Christmas Christmas - Bruce Cockburn
  • Connie Dover, The Holly and the Ivy The Holly and the Ivy - The Holly and the Ivy
  • Sara Groves, O Holy Night O Holy Night - Sara Groves
  • Kathy Mattea, Good News Good News - Kathy Mattea.
  • John McCutcheon, Winter Solstice Winter Solstice - John McCutcheon
  • Loreena McKennitt, A Midwinter Night’s Dream A Midwinter Night's Dream - Loreena McKennitt
  • Sarah McLachlan, Wintersong Wintersong - Sarah McLachlan
  • Fernando Ortega, Christmas Songs Christmas Songs - Fernando Ortega
  • Thom Schuyler, Precious Child (hard-to-find)
  • John Michael Talbot, Birth of Jesus The Birth of Jesus: A Celebration of Christmas - John Michael Talbot
  • George Winston, December December: Piano Solos - Anniversary Edition - George Winston
  • Celtic Christmas, vol. 2 , and the many other Windham Hill Celtic Christmas albums…

Favorite classical:

  • Cambridge Singers and John Rutter, Christmas Star Christmas Star - Carols for the Christmas Season - Cambridge Singers & John Rutter
  • The King’s Singers, Christmas Christmas - The King's Singers
  • Canadian Brass, Noel The Canadian Brass With Noël - The Canadian Brass
  • George F. Handel, The Messiah. My favorite version is the recording by the Academy of Ancient Music. Handel: Messiah - Academy of Ancient Music, Carolyn Watkinson, Christopher Hogwood, David Thomas, Emma Kirkby, Judith Nelson, Oxford Choir of Christ Church Cathedral & Paul Elliott Read aloud the scriptural texts to Part 1, “The Messiah Comes” (save Parts II and III for Lent and Easter listening): Isaiah 40:1-5; Haggai 2:6-7; Malachi 3:1-3; Isaiah 7:14; 40:9; 60:1-3; 9:2,6; Luke 2:8-14; Zechariah 9:9; Isaiah 35:5-6; 40:11; Matthew 11:28-30. GCI has a brief intro and listener’s guide.
  • J. S. Bach, Magnificat Bach: Magnificat - Academy of Ancient Music, Choir Of King's College, Cambridge, Stephen Cleobury & Susan Gritton
  • Bach, Christmas Oratorios Bach: Oratorio de Noël (Christmas Oratorio) - Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, René Jacobs & RIAS Kammerchor, Berlin
  • Bach, Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring The 50 Most Essential Christmas Masterpieces - Various Artists
  • Welcome All Wonders! Christmas at Washington National Cathedral.Welcome All Wonders!: Christmas at Washington National Cathedral - J. Reilly Lewis, Washington Symphonic Brass, Cathedral Choral Society & Eric Plutz
  • Tchaikovsky, The Nutcracker Suite Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker Suite - Berliner Philharmoniker & Mstislav Rostropovich
  • Menotti, Amahl and the Night Visitors Menotti: Amahl and the Night Visitors (Recorded in the Presence of Gian-Carlo Menotti) - David Syrus, James Rainbird, Lorna Haywood & Orchestra and Chorus of The Royal Opera House Covent Garden

Other family favorites:

    Mary Chapin Carpenter - Come Darkness, Come Light

  • Enya, And Winter Came And Winter Came - Enya
  • Barenaked Ladies, Barenaked for the Holidays Barenaked for the Holidays - Barenaked Ladies. Their rendition of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is fantastic!
  • Vince Guaraldi Trio, Charlie Brown Christmas A Charlie Brown Christmas (Remastered) - Vince Guaraldi Trio
  • Riders in the Sky, Christmas the Cowboy Way Christmas the Cowboy Way - Riders In the Sky
  • Willie Nelson, Christmas 20th Century Masters - The Christmas Collection: The Best of Willie Nelson - Willie Nelson
  • Amy Grant, Home for Christmas Home for Christmas - Amy Grant (esp. “Breath of Heaven”).
  • Steven Sharp Nelson, Christmas Cello Christmas Cello - Steven Sharp Nelson. Incredible. And more recently, the Piano Guys, A Family Christmas. If you haven’t heard of the Piano Guys, check out their Star Wars parody, Cello Wars.
  • Point of Grace, A Christmas Story A Christmas Story - Point Of Grace
  • Veggie Tales, A Very Veggie Christmas A Very Veggie Christmas - VeggieTales (Veggie Tunes)
  • James Taylor at Christmas James Taylor At Christmas - James Taylor
  • Michael Card, The Promise The Life - Michael Card

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| Songbooks | Music | Anthologies & Essays | Bible Studies | Poems | Fiction |

Read: Anthologies & Essays; Reflections on the mystery

“Our culture is celebrating a giddy, overhyped pseudo-Christmas while we are attempting the more serious task of observing a holy Advent, but the reason the cultural messages are so powerful is that our human yearning is so real, and so profound.” (Feasting on the Word, cited below)

L'Engle and Shaw, WinterSongThe following works each contain marvelous, shorter readings on various topics ideal for a quiet evening at home alone, and to read aloud together.

| Index of Christmas posts | Movies | Storybooks | Plan holiday activities |
| Songbooks | Music | Anthologies & Essays | Bible Studies | Poems | Fiction |

Bible Study: Bibles, biblical commentaries on the nativity accounts

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Read aloud: Favorite poems

Welcome, all wonders in one sight!
Eternity shut in a span,
Summer in winter, day in night,
Heaven in earth, and God in man!
Great little One, whose all-embracing birth
Lifts earth to Heaven, stoops Heaven to earth.”

Richard Crashaw, “In the Holy Nativity of our Lord”

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| Songbooks | Music | Anthologies & Essays | Bible Studies | Poems | Fiction |

Books: Favorite holiday fiction for leisure reading

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28 Responses to Christmas nights at home

  1. Hannah says:

    Yes yes yes!!!

    My favorite movies definitely include Muppet Christmas Carol, White Christmas, The Bishop’s Wife, Miracle on 34th Street, The Nativity Story, and It’s a Wonderful Life.

    I’d add to the list of picture books anything Christmas/Winter-y by Jan Brett, the Polar Express, and A Wish to be a Christmas Tree. I also have fallen in love with several Little Golden Books like Uncle Mistletoe; Santa’s Workshop; and The Biggest, Most Beautiful Christmas Tree. They’re little, but fun!

    Lastly, for music I’d add Point of Grace – A Christmas Story and Veggie Tales – A Very Veggie Christmas. My favorites of what you’ve listed include Loreena McKennitt, George Winston, John Michael Talbot, Michael Card, Precious Child, and the Celtic Christmas albums.

    And no, Christmas and Advent would not be the same without the Family Celebrations book!

    Thanks Dad for making a list of all of these! I love Christmastime!! 🙂

  2. Kerry Magruder says:

    Thanks, Hannah! I’ve already added a couple storybooks by Jan Brett, and very soon I’ll add the other suggestions too. Wonderful!


  3. Susanna says:

    That’s great Dad!!!! I agree with Hannah about all that, but there is one movie you forgot that Hannah and I love to watch, Veggie Tales, The Toy That Saved Christmas!! (I love that one!)
    Love ya Dad!!
    Susie Kabluzie

  4. Kerry Magruder says:

    Thanks, Susanna! I’ll definitely add that one!


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  6. Hannah says:

    Yes, I forgot about the Veggie Tales movie, that’s wonderful! But clarification for Jan Brett, I don’t remember hearing of Who’s That Knocking on Christmas Eve, and two of my favorites are Trouble with Trolls and the Christmas Trolls! 🙂 I also love The Night Tree, I remember that one more than the Christmas Farm one… but those are both relatively new additions to the picture book collection. 🙂 love it!!! So many great books!!

  7. kvmagruder says:


    Thanks for mentioning your favorite Jan Brett books! “Who’s Knocking” might be the title of the one Rachel gave me last year (when you gave me “The Three Bears”) – I can’t remember for sure. So many books, we need a season devoted to reading them! Oh wait, that’s what Christmas is! 🙂


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  24. Derrick Howlett says:

    When I was in 5th grade, Mrs. Steward read us “The Byrd’s Christmas Carol.” It was sad, but I learned so much about family life, love, and death. I do recommend it!

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  28. Candace Johnston says:

    This is delightful, Kerry. Thank you so much for sharing it!

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