This year, when you settle down on the sofa with family, drinking that traditional glass of brandy or warm mug of hot chocolate, and you start to watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ for the 25th time, think about the idea of nostalgia.
Christmas is the only time of year when you’d entertain the prospect of replaying the same old films and singing the same old songs. Why is that? Perhaps it’s because, for many of us, the festive season is a time for familiar comforts and reflection, and happy memories provide the perfect base for that. Or maybe it’s because the Christmas classics that we all grew up loving are constantly given modern makeovers that don’t just help us sustain our seasonal nostalgia, but bring them up to date for newer audiences too.
‘Bah humbug’ – how many times have you heard that famous line? Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol reminds us never to forget the spirit of kindness and generosity, especially around the festive period. And as well as inspiring many of the current yuletide traditions we take for granted, his iconic novella is reinvented – just like its famous protagonist, Ebenezer Scrooge – every single year. ‘The more the merrier’ seems to be the spirit when it comes to this tale, and we’ve seen all the traditional interpretations, from TV movies to musicals. But the ones that truly keep Dickens’ tale of social injustice alive are those that give it their own special twist.
In 2009, we were introduced to Jim Carrey as a computer animated Ebenezer Scrooge. While there wasn’t that much new to unwrap in terms of story, the warm visuals introduced A Christmas Carol to a new generation of children – and Carrey’s own brand of humour ensured those who’d grown up watching his wacky comedies would find a gift of their own.
21 years earlier, another comedy icon, Bill Murray, channelled Ebenezer for the loose adaptation Scrooged. Murray plays a TV executive more used to the spirits in a glass than those in traditional Christmas tales of morality, and as a result, brought Dickens’ story back into the minds of adults who’d long since left it behind.
Possibly the most unique adaptation of any story, never mind A Christmas Carol, is 1992’s The Muppet Christmas Carol. The Muppets might not be everyone’s mug of mulled wine, but for those that are fans, seeing Kermit as Bob Cratchit and Fozzibear as Mr. Fezziwig invokes the festive feeling like nothing else.
The new holiday hits:
Festive films and Christmas music go together like sleigh rides and Santa, but we’re more accepting of something new on our screens than our speakers. The classics we listen to year after year are just that, classics, and they’re so set in stone that most modern takes get little more than a frosty reception. Sometimes, however, a Christmas miracle will occur, and we’ll get a song we know we’ll be listening to for years to come. While they need those essential hallmarks – the bells and that difficult to pin down festive feeling – they need to twist it just enough to keep things interesting.
With its first publishing coming all the way back in 1780, ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ is a staple of the holiday season as much as the voice of Bing Crosby. And over the years, it’s had multiple revamps, takes and even parodies, but all seem to have a short shelf life. That is, until, 2001 when Destiny’s Child released ‘8 Days of Christmas.’ ‘Two turtle doves’ made way for ‘the keys to a CLK Mercedes’, ‘five gold rings’ became ‘a diamond belly ring’, and Christmas bells and ‘la la la’s were given a noughties RnB makeover. With their own spin successfully applied, Destiny’s Child opened up a stiff Christmas classic to a younger generation and further generations to come.
Sleigh bells? Check. Saxophone? Check. Lyrics about mistletoe and Santa? Check. Robbie Williams nails the wish list of holiday clichés on his new song ‘Bad Sharon’, but that isn’t the reason it’s in the running for this year’s Christmas no. 1. This is a Christmas ode to the most English of traditions – the Christmas party. And instead of wholesome themes of giving and kindness, he implores us to ‘grab Bad Sharon from the office’ and ‘go get off your face’. It’s a subversion of the norm, and one that’s allowed him to leave a sizeable footprint in the snowfall of Christmas stalwarts.
Christmas may come once a year, but our festive favourites – both what we watch and listen to – are created much less regularly. Repeating the formula and copying what’s gone before simply doesn’t work, because those classics are cemented in our minds. To break through the ice, you need to take some essential hallmarks and make them work for you in a whole new interpretation – that’s the only way to authentically capture the spirit of Christmas.