Christmas doesn’t really start until you see that treasured film or TV show, does it? There may be plenty of festive classics, but there’s always one that really gets you in the spirit, right?
At the RadioTimes.com office we love TV (obviously). We watch lots of telly (naturally). But there’s still one in particular that many of us hold dear. And until we’ve sat down and watched that exact festive on-screen cracker, Christmas really hasn’t begun…
Raymond Briggs’s Father Christmas
Raymond Briggs’s Father Christmas (voiced by Mel Smith) is a no-nonsense Santa that simply does his present delivering bit and goes home. He’s grumpy, yes, but why wouldn’t you be when you’ve flown across the entire world, your feet are freezing and you’re the only one that’s still up? I get it. I don’t need a jolly Santa that does everything with a grin. He has a dog and cat to get home to, weeds to sort out in his garden and he wants a bloomin’ good holiday to get over the hard work courtesy of an indulgent trip to France and a boozy blow out in Las Vegas. I hear ya, FC.
Twenty-odd years later I still feel a frisson of ‘will I finally get that Dream Phone?’ when he reads all of the letters that have been delivered, still chuckle when he strips off into his spotty swimming trunks and happily sing-along (with the rest of the family) as he wishes us all another bloomin’ Christmas.
– Emma Daly
See it 12:10pm Channel 4 on Christmas Day
A Christmassy Ted
Nothing says Christmas like a group of Catholic priests becoming stranded in the largest lingerie department in Europe and that’s why I couldn’t imagine the festive season without the annual viewing of Father Ted’s one and only Christmas special.
Dermot Morgan was a household name back home in Ireland long before Ted hit UK TV screens, but his portrayal of the hapless priest was truly something special. And in A Christmassy Ted he and his hilarious co-stars offered up the sweetest of seasonal TV delights. It’s absolutely no wonder that the episode still airs annually, almost 20 years after it debuted on Christmas Eve in 1996.
And it still makes me laugh as much as I did when I was a 7-year-old with a rather liberal mammy who happily allowed me to observe the crazy Christmassy Craggy Island antics.
– Sarah Doran
See it Wednesday 23rd December 10:30pm on Channel 4
The Box of Delights
The BBC’s Box of Delights is the most Christmassy of Christmassy things, which is why you should always decorate your tree before sitting down to watch it, to make sure you completely maximise the Christmassiness.
It is set in the 1930s, which everyone knows is one of the most Christmassy eras there is, and starts with a train journey – in a proper upholstered compartment in a proper steam train – coming back from school for the hols. The train is travelling through snowy British countryside of course, but that’s where the cosy Christmas clichés start to melt into something much eerier, turning The Box of Delights into a kind of festive cheese dream.
It’s a pagan Christmas and “the wolves are running”. Strange men from Britain’s ancient past turn up with brilliantly cryptic messages like “If you see someone tell them someone is safe” (a phrase that has been echoing around my brain since I first heard it thirty-odd years ago). There’s a slimy man-rat, and a shapeshifting scene featuring Herne the Hunter. Doctor Who star Patrick Troughton plays an eccentric old man with a magic box (typecast much?) and the theme tune is as twinkly and magical as he is.
When I hear it I am transported back to my childhood, just like Master Kay Harker using the box to “go swift” to another place and time…
As all children who grew up equating Christmas with snow, I used to hurtle out of bed to check whether there was enough with which to build a snowman. I still do, although it’s now more of a half-hearted wander than a leap.
But in London where I spent my childhood, there was very rarely even a measly icicle let alone an actual White Christmas.
So Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman meant I, and children in warm places across Britain, could experience the thrill of snow without actually seeing any. The boy’s excitement of creating a snowy best friend to fly through the skies with never got dull.
But then of course, if it were just a tale of happy frolicking in the snow, it wouldn’t be something I’d still go back to now as an adult. With a big choice of Christmas viewing, The Snowman makes the cut because it’s sad, too.
As the boy mourned the loss of his best friend, I’d watch my mum sobbing into a bowl of half-peeled roast potatoes and know that, for some perverse reason, I’d be watching this at Christmas forevermore.
– Kasia Delgado
See it at 7.40am Christmas Eve on Channel 4
The first time my family saw Elf was on a plane to Canada. I can still recall the acute teenage embarrassment of having to listen to the peals of laughter coming from the row behind as my parents watched Will Ferrell’s over-sized Elf rampaging around New York. Ever since it’s been a staple of our Christmas. We’re those annoying people who crowd round the TV, reciting quote after quote:
“Buddy the Elf, what’s your favourite colour?”
“Son of a nutcracker!”
“It looks like a Christmas tree!”
(You have to say that last one in a lift while pressing the button for every single floor, something my little brother did when we eventually made it to Canada.)
Why do we watch it? Because while it makes us laugh (endlessly), it also delivers that classic Christmas tale of Scrooge turned good – and the message that bucket loads of festive spirit can get anyone in the mood for Christmas. Even a cotton-headed ninny muggins.
– Susanna Lazarus
See it Wednesday 23rd 12:25pm Sky Movies Family
What’s the one film or TV show that really makes your Christmas? Let us know…