A festive playlist to get you in the holiday spirit!

For the third year in a row I’m putting together a playlist of some of my favourite Christmas tunes! This playlist will perfectly complement the playlists I published in 2020 and 2021, so be sure to check out both of those to see even more holiday favourites!

I love this time of year, and revelling in Christmas music is one way to enjoy the season. Over the years I’ve amassed a collection of Christmas albums and singles, spanning a range of musical genres and styles. A lot of more modern albums seem to be comprised of the same handful of “traditional holiday favourites,” but every once in a while there’s a real gem amongst them – be that an original song or a great cover.

Christmas will soon be upon us once again!

Last year we were treated to Ed Sheeran and Elton John’s instant Christmas classic Merry Christmas, and that song will be a permanent fixture on my holiday playlist from now on! There are still original Christmassy songs composed, then, even if the charts have been dominated in recent years by talent show winners and novelty songs.

This playlist is really “part three” – following on from the playlists I’ve published over the past couple of years. So please go back and check out my first playlist, which you can find by clicking or tapping here. And don’t forget part two, which you can find by clicking or tapping here! Put all three together – or just pluck out your personal faves – and you’ll be set to go for your Christmas party!

The videos below are all hosted on YouTube, and some may be region-blocked. However, all of the songs should be available via your streaming method of choice if you can’t listen to them here. Let’s jump into the playlist!

Track 1:
Wonderful Christmastime – Paul McCartney (1979)

Was the ’70s the golden age of pop-rock Christmas songs… or is that just the nostalgia talking? After the likes of Slade, John Lennon, Mud, and Wizzard all put out songs that have become perennial favourites, Paul McCartney closed out the decade with Wonderful Christmastime. And apparently he hates it – or rather, he’s come to dislike the song after hearing it every Christmas season for more than forty years!

What’s fascinating about Wonderful Christmastime is that Paul McCartney composed the song, sings it, and also plays every single instrument you hear on the recording. His band at the time, Wings, wasn’t involved in the song at all (though members of the band do appear in the video). Whatever you may think of the song – and it’s definitely a love-it-or-hate-it Christmas track – a lot of work and talent went into its recording.

Track 2:
Up On The Housetop – The Jackson 5 (1970)

Up On The Housetop is one of those Christmas classics that seems to have been recorded by a wide range of performers! Originally composed in the mid-19th Century, the song tells a timeless tale of the arrival of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. The Corporation, who produced many of the Jackson 5’s early hits, adapted the song for the group, adding in new lines for the Jackson family.

As an R&B/funk arrangement, the up-tempo adaptation of the song is pitch-perfect, and the extra lines add a little dash of humour. It’s not a straight cover of this Christmas classic – but there are many other arrangements of Up On The Housetop that stay true to its original composition. For my money, the Jackson 5 version is one of the better ones, and certainly one of the most unique.

Track 3:
21st Century Christmas – Cliff Richard (2006)

21st Century Christmas was Sir Cliff Richard’s last real effort to score a number one hit in the UK. If he’d succeeded, he would’ve been the first and only artist to reach the number one spot in six different decades, after achieving the milestone at least once in every decade from the ’50s to the ’90s. 21st Century Christmas managed to sell more CDs than any other song – but was pipped to the post by Take That in the week before Christmas and by X Factor winner Leona Lewis in Christmas week. Both artists achieved their positions thanks to downloads, which were newly-incorporated into the charts at the time.

Despite not quite hitting the top spot, 21st Century Christmas is a nice song, and it’s been a fixture on my Christmas playlist. I bought the CD single in 2006, and I bought the song again as an mp3 a few years later. Some of the lyrics feel rather dated as Sir Cliff’s idea of a 21st Century Christmas involves faxes and DVDs… but hey, they were modern and hip at the time! And it wouldn’t be Christmas without one of Sir Cliff’s songs!

Track 4:
Christmas Is All Around – Love Actually OST (2003)

Rom-com Love Actually didn’t really feel like a typical Christmas film when I first saw it, but it’s certainly become a perennial Christmas favourite over the past couple of decades! One of the film’s story threads followed ageing rock star Billy Mack – played by Bill Nighy – as he chases one last chance at stardom by scoring a Christmas number one with a Christmas version of Love Is All Around.

The song is deliberately silly, with some slightly awkward moments as the words don’t quite fit in time to the beat! But as a parody and pastiche of novelty Christmas songs, it’s absolutely perfect. And the end result is a perfectly creditable Christmas song in its own right – one that has managed to find a place on my Christmas playlist!

Track 5:
Santa’s Coming For Us – Sia (2017)

Australian pop superstar Sia released her first Christmas album in 2017 – and as a collector of Christmas albums, I snapped it up as soon as it was available! The lead single from a Christmas album that was made up mostly of new compositions was Santa’s Coming For Us, and it’s a fantastic modern Christmas song.

Santa’s Coming For Us topped the charts in Canada… but nowhere else, reaching a distant 17th place on the charts here in the UK. The music video features Henry Winkler (best known as Fonzie on Happy Days) as part of an all-star cast, which is kind of neat. I always like to give new songs a fair shot, and I’m definitely glad to have tried Sia’s Christmas offering.

Track 6:
O Little Town Of Bethlehem – Annie Lennox (2010)

In 2010, Annie Lennox (of Eurythmics fame) released her first Christmas album! God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – a fairly drab traditional carol – was the lead single, but for my money, Lennox’s arrangement of O Little Town Of Bethlehem is the real standout track. It wasn’t released as an independent single, though, so it never charted.

Traditional carols like O Little Town Of Bethlehem have seen many different arrangements and covers over the years. Lennox’s take is much more traditional than the Cliff Richard/Amy Grant song Little Town (which made the cut to feature on the 2020 edition of my festive playlist!) But I think there’s room to enjoy both classic and novel arrangements of the same festive favourites sometimes. Annie Lennox did a great job on O Little Town Of Bethlehem, and her version is, at least for me, one of the best.

Track 7:
Merry Christmas (Exclamation Point) – Jon Lajoie (2013)

Jon Lajoie’s song is a very light-hearted look at Christmas, and I absolutely love it! Merry Christmas (Exclamation Point) is incredibly relatable; we all have people in our lives outside of our immediate circles of family and close friends, work colleagues and casual acquaintances who we want to acknowledge over the holidays – but not in a big way! And that’s what the song is all about.

I confess that I’m not familiar with Jon Lajoie or any of his other work. I stumbled upon this Christmas song on iTunes or YouTube shortly after it was released, and I fell in love with its humourous take on the holiday season. It’s been a feature on my playlist ever since – and a song I’ve recommended to others, too!

Track 8:
Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Band Aid (1984)

Last year, I put Band Aid 20’s version of Do They Know It’s Christmas (from 2004) on my playlist, but as I said then, it’s a toss-up for me whether that version or the original from 1984 is better! So this year we’re going to add the original version! Band Aid came together very quickly in late 1984, inspired (or so the story goes) by a BBC news report on that year’s famine in Ethiopia. The song was thrown together in a matter of days by Bob Geldof and Ultravox’s Midge Ure.

Do They Know It’s Christmas? was a charity single, with all the proceeds raised going to help with famine relief in Ethiopia, and although some of the lyrics are a little on the nose, the intentions here were good. Band Aid went on to inspire the Live Aid and USA For Africa concerts in 1985 (the former of which is one of my earliest television viewing memories!) and the song itself has been re-recorded on three separate occasions now, raising more money for charity every time. And as a festive hit, Do They Know It’s Christmas? actually manages to be a good, enjoyable song.

Track 9:
Thank You Santa – Mitchel Musso (2009)

This song was featured on the Phineas and Ferb Christmas special in 2009 – specifically, it’s the song at the very end that plays while the credits roll. It’s an incredibly sweet song, and without wanting to put too fine a point on it, it’s all about saying thank you to Santa Claus!

Mitchel Musso voiced the character of Jeremy in Phineas and Ferb for all four seasons of the show (and its spin-off films), and was also a Disney Channel star, appearing in shows like Hannah Montana and Pair of Kings. This song has been a fixture on my Christmas playlist – along with several others from the same Christmas special – ever since I got the CD soundtrack!

Track 10:
Three Ships – Cyndi Lauper (1998)

Cyndi Lauper’s Christmas album in 1998 didn’t do especially well on the charts, but she brought a new style to several traditional carols. Her version of Three Ships is probably one of the more unique takes on the carol that I’ve heard, and as a lesser-known Christmas tune it’s nice to see songs like this given a new arrangement sometimes.

I Saw Three Ships is a traditional carol whose origins are lost, and speculation abounds as to what the titular three ships might have been carrying – and what their destination may have been! Regardless, the song seems to date to at least the middle ages, and although it isn’t at the top of everyone’s list, new versions and arrangements still pop up from time to time.

Track 11:
Stop The Cavalry – Jona Lewie (1980)

Stop The Cavalry is one of those songs that didn’t start out life as a Christmas song… but became one almost by default thanks to a December release! One line in the song mentions Christmas, but aside from that it’s really a protest song, an anti-war track that references the First World War but also looks to contemporary conflicts and the threat of nuclear war as well.

I’m certain that Stop The Cavalry would have reached the number one spot in December 1980 – possibly as that year’s Christmas number one – were it not for the murder of John Lennon that same month. Two of Lennon’s hits – (Just Like) Starting Over and Imagine – hit the number one spot in December and January, keeping Stop The Cavalry from topping the charts. In the years since, however, the song has become a well-known holiday favourite here in the UK.

Track 12:
To Christmas! (The Drinking Song) – Straight No Chaser (2016)

The story of acapella group Straight No Chaser is a fun one! The group was founded in 1996 by a group of students in Indiana, and they played a number of local gigs in the late 1990s before they graduated and went their separate ways. But in 2006, a video that had been recorded of their version of Twelve Days of Christmas years earlier went viral on YouTube, racking up more than twenty million views – massive numbers at the time! The band got back together and have since put out several albums.

To Christmas! (The Drinking Song) is a fun, light-hearted track taken from their 2016 Christmas album. The song races through the entire season, from the weeks leading up to Christmas right through to New Year, and it does so in a gentle and fun way, touching on topics like parties and Christmas shopping but with a neat, modern twist.

So that’s it!

Not long to wait!

We’ve added twelve more tracks to the festive playlist, and for the third year in a row we’ve managed to dodge both Wham! and Mariah Carey. That’s no mean feat… but will we be able to keep them at bay again next year? Tune in to find out!

Here in the UK, we’re looking at the third Christmas in a row that won’t be as enjoyable as we’d want it to be. Two pandemic-disrupted years have given way to a cost-of-living catastrophe, inflation, strikes, and a general sense that we’re in for a “winter of discontent” that could rival the late 1970s. At times like these, the light escape that Christmas music can provide is incredibly important to me. Stepping away from the difficulties of the real world, if only for a moment, can be just what the doctor ordered, and for me, Christmas music can provide that. It’s in that spirit that I share this playlist with you – and I hope some of the songs provide you with a little dash of festive enjoyment to perk up your holiday season.

With just over three weeks to go until the big day, I have a couple of other Christmassy ideas that may make their way onto the website – so I hope you’ll check back for those before Santa comes. I truly hope you’re making the best of the holiday season, whatever your circumstances may be.

All songs on the playlist above are the copyright of their respective record company, studio, distributor, composer, etc. All videos courtesy of YouTube. Videos are merely embedded here, and are not hosted on Trekking with Dennis. For copyright claims, please contact YouTube directly. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Five films (and TV specials) to watch this Holiday Season!

Christmas is edging closer by the day! The main event itself is now only a couple of weeks away, so we’re well and truly in the wintery grip of the Holiday Season. This time I thought it could be fun to take a look at five films and television specials that make for great festive viewing.

Although I’m not a religious person by any stretch, Christmas has always been an event I look forward to… beginning as early as September! Though not every Christmas was perfect when I was a kid, I have some pretty happy memories of this time of year, and there’s something about the juxtaposition of the cold, dark winter going on outside with the warmth and the twinkling lights of a Christmas tree inside that really makes this time of year feel special, almost magical!

Christmas is coming!

Between the lights, decorations, and festive pop hits, I think it’s fair to say I’m all about the secular, commercial side of Christmas; Santa Claus, not Jesus, stands out to me as the season’s main character! So that’s my mindset as we go into this list.

Please keep in mind, as always, that this list is wholly subjective. If you don’t like any of these Christmas films and television specials, that’s perfectly fine. I’m not trying to pretend that these are the “all-time best ever” Christmas specials, or anything of the sort!

With that caveat out of the way, let’s dive into the list!

Number 1:
The Polar Express (2004)

The titular Polar Express.

When it was released in 2004, The Polar Express received criticism for its “creepy” CGI – but I think it’s safe to say that its semi-realistic animated style has aged pretty well. Tom Hanks stars in this modern animated classic, and takes on several different voice roles across the film. Not providing names for main characters is a risk (not to mention something you’d get a failing grade for in most creative writing classes!) but that doesn’t actually hamper The Polar Express. The nameless protagonists are arguably more relatable as a result, allowing the audience to project themselves onto the characters with ease.

There may have been a couple of Christmases when I was very young where I did, in fact, believe in Santa Claus (or Father Christmas, as we call him here in the UK). But my parents didn’t do the whole “all of your gifts come from Santa” thing, and among my earliest Christmas memories I can remember writing thank-you notes to family members for the gifts they’d given me. These things vary from family to family, though, and while I wouldn’t like to speak outside of my own experience, I think a lot of you probably have some recollection of believing in Santa Claus and subsequently losing that belief. It’s a theme that many different Christmas films have tackled – but The Polar Express gets it right. The protagonist learns, over the course of his adventures, to keep believing – a metaphor, perhaps, for valuing one’s childhood and remaining youthful.

The nameless protagonists.

I’ve always liked trains, and The Polar Express shows us a beautiful CGI rendition of an old-fashioned steam locomotive. Trains – model trains in particular – have somewhat of an association with Christmas, but this method of transporting kids to the North Pole was certainly unique! It gives The Polar Express a sense of adventure that road trip films and other films about long journeys often capture so well, with scenes like running around on the train roof and the train skidding across the ice all playing into that.

The Polar Express is a film with heart, but it’s also something a little different from the typical “let’s go and meet Santa Claus” fare of many other shows and films aimed at children. There’s a sense of scale in the journey we see the protagonists undertake, and because it’s told from a child’s perspective, there’s still some of that mystery and wonder; the sense that the kids don’t really know how everything works on the train. That magic is part of what makes the holidays so special.

Number 2:
The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special (2020)

Promo image for The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special.

I’ve had a review of this one in the pipeline since last year, but for various reasons it got buried under too many other writing projects in the days before Christmas! Stay tuned, though, because I daresay I’ll get around to a full write-up eventually! For now, let’s hit the key points. The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special is hilarious, and I found it to be a great palate-cleanser after The Rise of Skywalker had been such a disappointment.

Unlike this year’s Lego Star Wars Terrifying Tales, which focused solely on Poe Dameron, The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special brings back all of the main characters from the sequel trilogy – then takes a wild ride through all three of Star Wars’ main eras thanks to some well-timed space magic! Star Wars fans should appreciate many, many callbacks to past iterations of the franchise – not least the notorious Holiday Special, which was released in 1978 to critical derision!

Finn, Rey, Poe, Rose, and Chewbacca.

The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special is full to the brim with gentle jokes and parodies that poke fun at the Star Wars franchise without ever coming across as mean-spirited or laughing at fans. Some humourless fans, or those who want to lose themselves in that world, might find that offputting, but I reckon that a majority will be able to enjoy The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special for what it is: non-canon fun.

I was pleased to see that Disney+ is intent on doing more with the Star Wars brand than just serious projects like The Mandalorian, and in some respects I think we can argue that The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special – and other Lego Star Wars titles too – fill a niche similar to Star Trek: Lower Decks over in another wonderful sci-fi franchise. No Star Trek holiday special yet, though… but maybe one day!

Number 3:
I Won’t Be Home For Christmas
The Simpsons Season 26 (2014)

The Simpsons’ house all decorated for the season.

The Simpsons has undeniably lost its edge in recent seasons, and it’s increasingly rare to pluck out a genuinely good episode from the ever-growing pile – something I found out when I put together a list of a few of my favourite episodes earlier this year. But every now and then The Simpsons can still produce an episode somewhat akin to those from its more successful past. I Won’t Be Home For Christmas is, in my view anyway, among them.

Perhaps it’s the holiday theme that elevates what might otherwise be a less-enjoyable episode, but I find that there’s something very relatable about I Won’t Be Home For Christmas. A few years ago, when I was suffering with undiagnosed mental health issues and in the midst of a divorce, I found myself wandering the dark, empty streets on Christmas Eve – trying to clear my head. The sequences in which Homer does something similar in this episode really hit home for me because I’ve been in a similar position myself.

I found this presentation of Homer to be very relatable.

When you’re watching what feels like the whole rest of the world closing their doors and enjoying the holidays without you, life can feel incredibly lonely. Homer meets a number of characters on his own journey, but that sense of loneliness and missing out on what’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year is still a prevalent theme that runs through the entire story.

On a more positive note, I Won’t Be Home For Christmas features a couple of genuinely good jokes and laugh-out-loud moments. It also kicks off with a Christmas-themed reworking of the show’s famous opening sequence, so if you’re watching on Disney+ don’t hit the “skip intro” button! You’ll miss something fun if you do. In a lot of ways I feel echoes of Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire in I Won’t Be Home For Christmas – and not just because of its holiday setting. The episode feels like a throwback to earlier seasons, when The Simpsons as a whole was doing far better at producing stories like this one.

Number 4:
Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too (1991)

Is that Santa and his reindeer?

My younger sister received a VHS copy of Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too as a Christmas present (I would guess in 1992) and watched it endlessly! As a result, it’s probably one of the Christmas specials that I’ve seen most often – it was a mainstay in our house in the run-up to Christmas for several years in a row! What’s more, the original Winnie the Pooh books by A. A. Milne were permanent fixtures on my childhood bookshelf, and I’m sure those books were read to me when I was very small. So the entire Winnie the Pooh series is something I have a great fondness for!

Christmas is a time for nostalgic steps back like this, forgetting the modern world and all of its troubles for a while. Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too is an incredibly sweet Christmas tale set in the Hundred Acre Wood, perfect for a few minutes wrapped up in Christmas-themed cuteness and escapism. Or is that just the nostalgia talking?

Eeyore, Piglet, Tigger, and Pooh.

Because Winnie the Pooh has always been pitched at very young children, the story here is rather basic. There’s a kerfuffle surrounding Christopher Robin’s letter to Santa, and Pooh tries to save the day. Despite those limitations, though, the story is incredibly cute, really sweet, and full to the brim with Christmas fun.

Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too isn’t something I go back to year upon year; doing so would probably ruin the magic. But every once in a while I treat myself to this blast of very personal ’90s nostalgia and enjoy my memories of Christmases past. As 2021 looks set to be the second Christmas in a row where we may not be able to do everything we’d want, I think finding moments like that might be very important for a lot of folks.

Number 5:
Phineas and Ferb: Christmas Vacation (2009)

The special’s title card.

As a childless adult, Phineas and Ferb is a series that shouldn’t have had much appeal for me! But as I’ve said many times before, the best kids’ shows have something to offer adults as well, and when I sat down to watch Phineas and Ferb for the first time back when I had the Disney Channel, I found a truly engaging and fun little cartoon.

That extends to the Christmas special too, which is one of the high points of the entire series – in my subjective opinion, naturally! I’m a total sap for the “Christmas is in danger, someone needs to save it!” plot cliché, and Phineas and Ferb: Christmas Vacation puts the series’ trademark spin on that familiar premise. It’s a lot of fun!

Perry and Dr Doofenshmirtz.

I never miss an opportunity to talk about Phineas and Ferb. The show finished its run in 2015, but last year returned for a one-off Disney+ original film, which was absolutely fantastic too. Unlike some of the other entries on this list, which I’ll happily rewatch on occasion, I return to Phineas and Ferb: Christmas Vacation every year without fail – something I’ve done for a decade now!

Phineas and Ferb: Christmas Vacation keeps the series’ trademark twin storylines – the boys and the other kids on one side, Perry the Platypus and Dr Doofenshmirtz on the other. Both stories come together in one connected narrative, but the show sticks to its two angles throughout – and what results is a story with moments of excitement, high drama, and emotion as the boys race to save Christmas.

Bonus:
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Nintendo Switch (2020)

Promo for New Horizons’ Christmas event.

If you’re an Animal Crossing player, Christmas Eve is where it’s at! But throughout December it’s possible to buy special seasonal items, to see your island all decorated for the holidays, and to take note of what some of your island friends might want by way of gifts! The Christmas event is known as Toy Day in the world of Animal Crossing, and while it’s possible to ignore it and get on with your regular island life, it’s a bit of fun to play through these one-off events.

As December dawns on your island – at least if you’re playing on a Northern Hemisphere island – snow will start to fall. You’ll be able to build a snowman every day – and building the perfect one unlocks special ice-themed items. There are snowflakes to catch, which are used as DIY ingredients to craft new seasonal items too.

A wintery New Horizons island!

Later in December, Isabelle will announce that she’s decorated some of the island’s trees – but only the pine trees. When I played last year not every pine was decorated, but those that were looked adorable with their little festive lights! Shaking these trees also provided yet another crafting material which could be used to create holiday-themed items.

I’ve been critical of New Horizons for its longevity in particular, but there are few games that offer this style of gameplay. Last year I played through the Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year events on my island, and I have to say I had a lot of fun with all of them. The Toy Day event on Christmas Eve (not Christmas Day!) is the kind of sweet Christmassy fun you’d expect from a game in the Animal Crossing series, and if you missed it last year it’s well worth playing through at least once.

So that’s it!

It’ll be the big day before we know it!

I’ve got a few more holiday-themed ideas for the website between now and Christmas – which is getting closer and closer by the day. I hope you like the festive banner and the little Santa hat on the website’s logo, too! I had fun messing around and putting those together.

There are lots of great festive films and holiday specials that I didn’t include on this list, so have a browse through the television listings or your streaming platform of choice. I’ll probably be checking out a mix of old favourites and new entries – there are always plenty of new holiday films every year. I’ve heard good things about 8-Bit Christmas this year, for example! I hope this list has been a bit of festive fun as we continue to get into a holiday groove!

All titles mentioned above are the copyright of their respective studio, distributor, broadcaster, streaming platform, etc. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

A festive playlist to get you in the holiday spirit!

This time last year I put out my last holiday playlist. Whether this will become an annual tradition or not, who can say! But as we’re once again approaching the most wonderful time of the year I thought another playlist would be a lot of fun. There were so many songs I debated including last time but didn’t, so here’s an opportunity to talk about a few more of my festive favourites!

I’m an avid collector of Christmas albums, and I have been for years. Many albums, especially recently, seem to consist of the same handful of “traditional holiday favourites” in different variations, but every once in a while there’s a real gem amongst them. Sometimes these can be original songs, other times simply an original take on a classic Christmas tune.

Christmas is drawing near!

It’s been a long while since there was a proper race to the Christmas number one spot – at least here in the UK. Nowadays novelty songs or big hits by well-known stars dominate the charts, and the days when a truly festive Christmas song would attract a lot of attention seem to be fading! The music charts are less and less relevant, of course, as folks turn to streaming, but still it would be nice to get another year like 1973 – when Slade and Wizzard battled it out with duelling songs that were both spectacularly Christmassy!

All of the songs on the list below are embedded here courtesy of YouTube. If, for whatever reason, any of the videos are blocked in your country I daresay you can find the tracks via some other streaming service without too much difficulty. I hope you’ll take a look at last year’s playlist as well – you can find it by clicking or tapping here. You’ll find the aforementioned Slade and Wizzard Christmas hits there, as well as a few other favourites of mine. This playlist is “Part 2” – it’ll go very well with last year’s offering!

Now that the shameless plug is out of the way, let’s jump into the playlist!

Track 1:
Saviour’s Day – Cliff Richard (1990)

Saviour’s Day is the first holiday song I listen to every year. Its opening lines are the perfect way to kick off the festive season, as mainstay of British pop Cliff Richard sings “Now we have been through the harvest, winter has truly begun.” As the harvest season draws to a close, the clocks turn back, and the temperature drops, this is the first song I turn to – it perfectly encapsulates the season that lies ahead of us.

The song was Sir Cliff’s third Christmas number one in a row here in the UK – following 1988’s Mistletoe and Wine and Band Aid II’s Do They Know It’s Christmas? in 1989. The Beatles from 1963-65, the Spice Girls from 1996-98, and most recently YouTube sensation LadBaby from 2018-20 have also achieved the feat of three Christmas number one singles in a row! I’m not a religious person, so Saviour’s Day and its Christian slant wouldn’t be my usual kind of tune. But at this time of year I don’t mind a bit of religious imagery!

Track 2:
Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Band Aid 20 (2004)

So here’s a question that’s bound to generate controversy: which version of Do They Know It’s Christmas is the best? For me it comes down to a clash between the original in 1984 and the 2004 cover version, and it’s the latter that we’ll listen to on this occasion. While the original has its charms, I like the slower tempo and more modern instrumentation that Band Aid 20 used. This version of the song blends slow piano, an electric guitar solo, and even a rapped verse all into one – and it works.

Band Aid 20, like Band Aid before it, was a charity project. Raising money for people in less well-off countries is always a good cause, and the holiday season sees a lot of charitable activity. Do They Know It’s Christmas wasn’t the first charity song to top the charts, but it’s a fun song in its own right, with a short but sweet melody that has become synonymous with this time of year. Band Aid 20 produced a creditable cover version in 2004, and it’s one I’m happy to revisit at this time of year.

Track 3:
Christmas Is Starting Now – Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (2009)

This was one of several Christmas songs featured on the Disney Channel special Phineas and Ferb: Christmas Vacation. It’s an amazing Christmas song in its own right, and an original track written for the show. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy are a swing band, and the song uses their style in show-stopping fashion!

The song plays at the climax of Phineas and Ferb: Christmas Vacation, and the Christmas special needed a big number to fit the excited, uplifting tone of that moment. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy delivered – but the song is so good it seems almost criminal to relegate it to one moment on the soundtrack to an animated show! It should be a permanent fixture on Christmas playlists – and it has been on mine ever since I first heard it.

Track 4:
Lonely This Christmas – Mud (1974)

A year after Slade and Wizzard had duked it out for the Christmas number one spot here in the UK, Mud came along with another record that would go on to become a Christmas classic. Unlike the upbeat tone of the two Christmas contenders in 1973, Lonely This Christmas is a slower track that perfectly fits the sombre, reflective tone of its lyrics.

Lonely This Christmas is a very relatable song – I think many folks must’ve lived through “the Christmas after the one before;” that first Christmas after a big break-up, wondering what the other person is doing and looking back at happier memories from the year before. I know I’ve been there… raise your hand if you have, too!

Track 5:
A Spaceman Came Travelling – Chris de Burgh (1976)

This one has been on my festive playlist for decades… mostly for sentimental reasons. I have fond memories of a friend who adored this slow, melodic track, and while I freely admit it isn’t my all-time Christmas favourite, it’s the time of year when it’s nice – sometimes – to wallow in fond memories.

I like the lyrics of A Spaceman Came Travelling – it’s the kind of song that makes you stop and think. The premise is simple (and supposedly inspired by the 1968 pseudoscience book Chariots of the Gods) that the Star of Bethlehem was, in fact, an alien spacecraft. The benevolent alien would preach a message of peace… but presumably was misunderstood! The ’70s had quite a few of these New Age concept songs… but this one has a Christmas theme.

Track 6:
Good King Wenceslas – The Piano Guys (2013)

The Piano Guys are a YouTube musical outfit well-known for their instrumental covers of pop hits. In 2013 they put out their first Christmas album – and it’s a good one! There have been many covers of Good King Wenceslas over the years, including instrumental variations like this one. I don’t want to say this one is the “absolute best” – but it has to be up near the top!

The arrangement of the piece is beautiful, giving what can be a slow, droll Christmas carol an up-tempo reworking. The melody focuses on the piano – as you might expect – but there’s also a cello and percussion present. All in all, a wonderful and somewhat different rendition of a traditional Christmas classic.

Track 7:
364 Days To Go – Brad Paisley (2006)

Representing the country music genre we have modern country superstar Brad Paisley! In my opinion at least, the country music genre as a whole doesn’t always get it right at this time of year… too many samey covers of the same few Christmas hits! But once in a while there’s a fun original song, and Brad Paisley’s 364 Days To Go has to be among them.

The song’s premise is simple… Christmas has only just finished, and while it’s tempting to feel a little melancholic at the end of the season, if you think about it there really isn’t that long until the next one! I love this time of year, and the few weeks leading up to Christmas are beautiful – so it can feel a little sad as Christmas Day draws to a close. But Brad’s right – there’s only 364 days to go and we’ll be back here again!

Track 8:
Merry Xmas Everybody – Robbie Williams ft. Jamie Cullum (2019)

We’ve done it… this is the first cover version of a track that appeared on last year’s list! But wait, don’t skip ahead yet! I was truly surprised to enjoy a cover of Slade’s amazing Christmas hit Merry Xmas Everybody… especially a swing-inspired one! But Robbie Williams and Jamie Cullum put together a really fun rendition of the track.

This version feels different enough from the original to really feel like something new, and the swing elements fit perfectly with the up-tempo music and fun lyrics. When I saw this track on the album’s listing I almost skipped it… but I’m so glad that I didn’t. It’s well worth a place on anyone’s Christmas playlist!

Track 9:
In Dulci Jubilo – Mike Oldfield (1975)

The Piano Guys aren’t the only musicians to put together a very different instrumental version of a traditional carol! Mike Oldfield did it decades earlier, and his version of In Dulci Jubilo has become a holiday favourite. In 1975 it peaked at number four on the UK charts, but has made a comeback on compilations and holiday albums ever since.

Mike Oldfield is a multi-instrumentalist, and over the course of a long career has put together a number of instrumental pieces as well as songs. In Dulci Jubilo features an electric guitar and recorders playing the main melody, backed up by synthesisers, drums, and piano. It’s very difficult to put into words; it’s a unique piece of music, based on a traditional carol but taking it in a very different and unexpected direction.

Track 10:
Christmas Wrapping – The Waitresses (1981)

Christmas Wrapping wasn’t a rousing success for New Wave band The Waitresses either on its original 1981 release or its re-release the next year, peaking at a lowly 45th position on the UK charts. It was originally commissioned for a compilation album that likewise wasn’t a huge success in the early ’80s, but it’s been featured on a number of Christmas albums in the years since, and has seen its popularity rise as a result.

The song’s title is a pun: “wrapping” sounds a lot like “rapping,” and there had been a song a couple of years earlier called Christmas Rappin’. Lyrically, the song tells of someone with a busy life who thinks she’ll skip Christmas – only to re-encounter someone she’s interested in on Christmas Eve. If one of those corny made-for-TV Christmas movies was condensed into five minutes and twenty seconds… this is what you’d get!

Track 11:
It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas – Michael Bublé (2011)

Michael Bublé has actually only released one full Christmas album, but he seems to have acquired a reputation of late as being a Christmas artist first and foremost! His cover of the 1951 hit It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas is one of the best versions of the song that I’ve heard, sticking fairly close to the original arrangement to provide a sweet, familiar-sounding Christmas tune.

There have been many versions of It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas over the years, including a few that take the song to different musical genres. Michael Bublé’s version is great, though, and makes the perfect backdrop to any Christmas party!

Track 12:
Merry Christmas – Ed Sheeran and Elton John (2021)

I debated whether to include this one because it’s so new… but it’s been on constant repeat in my house the past couple of days so I can’t help myself! This year, popular singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran has teamed up with Elton John for a Christmas single in aid of two charities. Merry Christmas is a fantastic Christmas song that draws on the very best of late 20th Century Christmas pop hits, mashing it all together into a simple, catchy tune.

The music video is hilarious, too. Featuring parodies of the likes of Walking in the Air, Shakin’ Stevens, Wizzard, and East 17’s Christmas hits – among others – it also features a number of celebrities and Christmas hitmakers of years past. Although it’s brand-new and has only been around for a couple of days at time of writing, I can already tell that Merry Christmas is going to become a permanent fixture on my Christmas playlist… staying there for as many Christmases as I have left!

So that’s it!

But don’t forget to go back and listen to last year’s playlist too – you can find it by clicking or tapping here. Once again we’ve put together a somewhat eclectic mix of different genres and styles, but I hope it’ll make the perfect backdrop to your Christmas party. For the second year in a row we’ve managed to avoid Wham! and Mariah Carey… but how long can we keep that up?

2021 has been a difficult year for all of us, and it’s years like this where we need the holiday season more than ever. Whether you’re able to spend Christmas with family and friends, or whether you’ll be chilling out alone, I hope you find some comfort and enjoyment in some of these songs. I find that listening to Christmas music can be a great way to relax and take my mind off things at this time of year.

Stay tuned for more Christmas-themed content here on the website between now and the big day!

All songs on the playlist above are the copyright of their respective record company, studio, distributor, composer, etc. All videos courtesy of YouTube. Videos are merely embedded here, and are not hosted on Trekking With Dennis. For copyright claims, please contact YouTube directly. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Fighting the urge to panic-buy

The media is truly excellent at manipulation. Take the UK’s recent petrol and diesel shortages as an example. A “leak” from a private meeting between government officials and industry leaders suggested that the chronic shortage of lorry drivers – which extends far beyond Britain’s borders, afflicting much of western Europe and even the United States – could make it harder to ensure fuel deliveries to petrol stations. The inevitable and quite predictable result of the press reporting this as if it were imminent was panic-buying; a run on fuel.

It wasn’t until the media-reported “leak” that the panic-buying began, which led to the very fuel shortages that headlines screamed were coming. In short, the UK’s current fuel predicament is entirely a media-created problem, but I doubt very much that the responsible parties will ever be held accountable.

There has been a run on petrol stations in the UK over the last few days, all thanks to the media.

The same is true of other instances of panic-buying over the last couple of years. The infamous toilet paper shortage at the beginning of the pandemic was, once again, a media-created firestorm. And many media outlets, particularly tabloids, haven’t stopped trying to create more “shortages” to report on ever since. They prioritise sales, clickbait, and the revenue that panic-inducing headlines provide over any semblance of journalistic integrity, taking photos of supposedly “empty” shelves in supermarkets and showing them to the world under exaggerated headlines promising imminent doom.

My first ever job when I was still at school was working in a convenience shop in a small town. On any day of the week it was possible to find an empty shelf – most shops and supermarkets don’t have large stockrooms any more, with the just-in-time delivery system bringing everything on a daily basis. By the time evening rolled around, some shelves could look pretty bare. It’s at these times of day that many tabloid “journalists” and their photographer allies sneak into supermarkets to snap pictures of empty shelves in a desperate quest to keep the public buying newspapers (a dying format) or clicking on headlines proclaiming that we’re all about to starve to death.

You can find scenes like this seven days a week in most supermarkets, convenience stores, and food shops.

Even if there are individual industry-specific shortages or supply chain problems, these aren’t going to be permanent. The fuel panic has already blown over in much of the country, with only the London area still fully in the grip of the crisis. And promises of additional drivers and tankers backed up by the army should see that settle within a matter of days. Likewise in food, where certain products have been out of stock. These things don’t last forever, because it’s in everyone’s interest, from the government to the shops to their suppliers, to figure out solutions as quickly as possible. The only ones who benefit in any way from these shortages – or reported “shortages” – are the media.

So why, then, am I finding it hard to resist the temptation to join in and start panic-buying?

Partly this is an anxiety thing, and folks who suffer from anxiety to a worse degree than I do must surely be feeling awful right now. Headlines are screaming of shortages in fuel, meat, fruits and vegetables, and even proclaiming that Christmas is about to be “cancelled” due to a lack of festive food and toys. For people with mental health conditions, these kinds of headlines are just awful.

“Christmas is cancelled!” scream the headlines in some failing newspapers.

The rational part of my brain is fighting the irrational side – as it always has to. Are there enough lorries to transport everything I need? Will I have enough food? Will I be able to get enough food for the cats? What about my medication? What about cat litter? What about bin liners? What about this, that, and the other things?

It’s so very tempting to say “I’ll just pick up a couple of extras.” That doesn’t feel like panic-buying, and I can even rationalise it to myself by saying that I’m not panicking, I’m just being sensible and taking precautions in case other people start panic-buying. Besides, the supermarket won’t miss a couple of extra tins of potatoes and packets of cat food, right? They’ve got loads of stuff on the shelves (despite the false pictures printed in the newspapers!)

A shortage of HGV drivers is one factor in some of these “shortages.”

The problem with that mindset is that, when everyone does the same thing, shops run out of everything more quickly. When people who have their tanks half-full stop by the petrol station for a top-up “just in case,” fuel runs out. And that’s exactly what we’ve been seeing over the past week. People who didn’t need to buy fuel, and wouldn’t have under normal circumstances, have started queueing up to top up their vehicles in case there’s a shortage caused by panic-buying… not realising or acknowledging that they themselves are part of the problem.

It’s an easy trap to fall into. And it’s easy to talk oneself into it, too. After all, if there’s even the possibility of things running out, it makes sense to jump in ahead of the panic and stock up, right? The mindset of “other people panic-buy; I’m just being sensible” is a way for all of us to rationalise what is really not rational behaviour. The fear of missing out, of sitting at home without food or toilet paper or petrol wishing we’d taken action sooner is pushing people on, spurring them to take irrational action and do the wrong thing at the wrong moment.

Other people panic-buy, but when *I* rush out to buy things I don’t need, I’m “just taking sensible precautions” or “stocking up.”

In the west, most people have never had to experience a genuine shortage of anything. In the UK, there haven’t really been any major problems or shortages since the 1970s, meaning anyone under the age of 50 can’t remember the three-day week or rolling blackouts. There hasn’t been a petrol shortage since fuel protests in the year 2000, and that was swiftly resolved. While there were supply issues for a few select products – like toilet paper – early last year that are certainly playing into people’s fears, it’s been a generation since the country last endured any major shortages.

With no experience of hard times to fall back on, people are more inclined to panic. Some genuinely fear starvation – though their girth suggests that such a fate would take a very long time indeed. But most people simply fear the unknown: what will a world without easy access to abundant supplies of food look like? Not knowing leaves folks much more inclined to panic.

The UK hasn’t experienced problems like these since Ted Heath was Prime Minister in the mid-1970s.

The media as a whole is being phenomenally irresponsible, though certain publications are worse than others. The incompetent government isn’t helping, of course, and things like a cut to benefits (welfare), a lower-than-expected rise in pensions, tax rises, and major price rises for electricity and gas bills all pile on top of the supposed shortages, adding to a sense of unease and worry among the population. On a personal level, I’m seeing my income shrink right at the moment my bills rise. With people already worried about paying for the basics like food and heating, the threat of food supplies drying up or no fuel at the pumps was the last straw for a lot of people.

It’s understandable, then, why people feel compelled to join the queues at petrol stations or push their way into packed supermarkets to chase down the last roll of Andrex. And I can take some degree of comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one who feels that way. Fighting the urge to panic-buy isn’t easy… but it’s worth doing. In fact, it’s the only way to prevent more panic-buying in the long term. That and not buying any newspaper with a red top or clicking on a clickbait headline on a poorly-coded website.

I’m going to try hard to avoid succumbing and contributing to the panic. Hopefully the reward will be a government that pays attention and actually takes action to fix the systemic issues that got us to this point – but I won’t hold my breath for that. Until then, I think I’m going to take a break from the news and focus on happier things. Like re-watching yesterday’s episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks. Damn, that was a fine episode.

Some stock images courtesy of Unsplash and/or Pixabay. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Merry Christmas!

Just a short one today. This year has been strange and disappointing for many of us, to put it mildly. When I began to create this website a little over a year ago, I had no idea that 2020 would have seen such misery on an unprecedented scale. It’s times like these where we need to close the door on the outside world and enjoy some wonderful escapism.

As someone with a varied (and growing) set of health problems, I do that a lot. Even pre-pandemic, disability greatly restricted what I was able to do and how far I was able to travel. My youngest sister is due to get married in the spring, and even travelling an hour to get to the wedding venue seems difficult – if not outright impossible. From a purely selfish point of view I haven’t lost as much of my freedom this year – because I’d already lost it gradually over the last decade.

You are not alone this Christmas.

I sympathise with everyone who’s not enjoying the holidays. As a kid I remember big Christmases with my parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles. We could easily have twelve or more people together on Christmas Day. And later, when I lived in the United States for a year, I had fourteen people over for Christmas, fellow foreigners who likewise had nowhere to go for the holidays. Cooking Christmas dinner that year was exhausting! This year is, of course, very different. And like many of you, I don’t have anyone to share Christmas with in person; stricter lockdown rules are in place in the UK this year.

Though it’s become a cliché over the last year, none of us are really alone. We have the best communication tool humanity has ever devised literally at our fingertips or in our pockets, and even just by reading this you’re interacting with me. And I wish you a very Merry Christmas – or Happy Holidays if you prefer.

Merry Christmas!

I’m not a religious person, but Christmas has always felt like an enjoyable time of year. The bright lights, beautiful decorations, and sense of community that comes out has always been appealing. I decorate my home as best I can, and even managed to put up some outdoor lights this year. It meant so much to me when a neighbour of mine sent me a Christmas card and told me how she and her kids had been enjoying the lights on their way to and from school the last few weeks. Even when we don’t see one another, this time of year can bring us together – just not quite in the same way as usual.

Loneliness is something that takes some getting used to, and for people who are especially sociable, that’s going to be difficult. If you’re missing people you can’t be with this year, there is small comfort in knowing that the creation of vaccines should mean next Christmas – or even this coming Easter – has a high chance of seeing normal service resume.

Vaccines are coming!

Until then, let’s find a nice film series or television show to binge-watch as we count down the last days of 2020. Pick up a nostalgic favourite or something new you’ve been wanting to try, grab some nice snacks and a cold drink (or a mug of hot chocolate) and escape this world for a short while. Whether you’re visiting the distant future, a galaxy far, far away, or a fantastical realm, getting out of your own head and revelling in something different is no bad thing. It might just take the edge off.

Though there are many great festive classics to enjoy, if you want to skip this Christmas altogether I wouldn’t blame you. The Expanse is an underrated science fiction series that you can find on Amazon Prime Video, or perhaps something like last year’s The Witcher on Netflix if you’re in a fantasy mood. There’s always Star Trek – Star Trek: Picard Season 1 was great, and you can find that on Amazon Prime Video too if you missed it earlier in the year. The Mandalorian Season 2 has just wrapped up over on Disney+, and The Lord of the Rings film trilogy has just been re-released in 4K on Blu-ray.

Star Trek: Picard premiered in January.

If you’re looking for something different, perhaps something under-appreciated or off the beaten path, I could recommend a sci-fi show from the 1990s called Space Precinct, which is a fun mix of space adventure and police procedural. Then let’s see… Fortitude is an engaging thriller series set in the arctic – perfect for this time of year! The first season of horror-anthology series The Terror is similarly set in the icy north, and is a riveting watch with some absolutely outstanding performances.

On the film front, one of this year’s few big releases Tenet is already available to stream or get on Blu-ray. The Sonic the Hedgehog film from earlier in the year managed to be a surprisingly fun time as well. I’ll always heartily recommend Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek: Generations – the latter even features a Christmassy sequence. If you have access to the internet you aren’t short of options for things to watch!

Star Trek: The Motion Picture is fantastic.

You could try Fall Guys, the fun obstacle course video game that was released earlier in the year. It’s hard not to have a fun time with that cute indie game – even though it can be frustrating at times! Star Wars: Squadrons lets you pilot your own TIE Fighter or X-Wing, and if you want something gentle, Animal Crossing: New Horizons on the Nintendo Switch has weeks’ worth of fun.

Although it’s a crappy Christmas for a lot of us, there’s still plenty to watch and play to take our minds off it. And if you’re struggling, aside from telling you that you aren’t alone and you’ll get through it, all I can really do is recommend a few interesting options to watch or play. As somebody who lives alone with few friends or relatives nearby, I’m often in this position even in better years. For me, entertainment like television and film can take the edge off. We all need good distraction sometimes.

Wherever you are, however you’re celebrating, and whatever you wish you could’ve done instead, I truly hope you have a Merry Christmas.

All titles mentioned above are the copyright of their respective studio, broadcaster, distributor, publisher, etc. Stock photos courtesy of Unsplash. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

My favourite adaptation of A Christmas Carol

The earliest filmed version of Charles Dickens’ classic novel A Christmas Carol was in 1901. Since then there have been at least sixty-five filmed adaptations – not including the many times where productions borrowed one or more themes or elements from the story. Some adaptations are good, some were even great, but for the last two decades there has been – in my opinion – one that stands out from the others.

Because A Christmas Carol has been adapted so many times, newer versions have a tendency to try to bring new creative elements to the story, or to have some gimmick that will make it feel different from all the others. The 1999 adaptation doesn’t do this, to its credit, and generally plays it straight. Though there is much to love in the likes of A Flintstones Christmas Carol or Scrooged, when I’m in the mood for a faithful adaptation of Dickens’ book, I reach for this version.

Sir Patrick Stewart as Ebenezer Scrooge.

Sir Patrick Stewart, who takes on the role of the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, had previously adapted A Christmas Carol to be a one-man play which he starred in on the stage beginning in 1988. Though I’ve never been fortunate enough to see this version, in it Sir Patrick takes on most of the roles in the book; over thirty characters. During the play’s run, Sir Patrick began working with director David Jones, who was a versatile director of stage and screen. They adapted the novel into a made-for-television film and it was broadcast on American cable network TNT in the run-up to Christmas 1999.

This adaptation of A Christmas Carol is the first to make use of CGI and digital special effects. Though some of these have aged – the production is over twenty years old at this point – most hold up remarkably well even compared to higher-budget films and television shows of the era. The 1990s was an interesting time for special effects. CGI meant that many productions were able to make use of effects that would have been prohibitively expensive to do physically, yet even at the time many could be underwhelming. The Star Wars prequels suffered greatly from an overuse of CGI that wasn’t quite ready for prime-time, but in this adaptation of A Christmas Carol, the effects are kept to a minimum and aren’t intrusive.

As a big Star Trek fan, the main draw of this adaptation was, of course, the presence of Sir Patrick Stewart. I don’t believe it was broadcast here in the UK before the millennium, but I certainly would have seen it for the first time in the early 2000s. After being initially interested simply because of who was in it, what I found when I sat down to watch A Christmas Carol was a largely-faithful adaptation of Dickens’ novel, one that retained all of the heart and sweetness at the core of this story of Christmas and redemption. Sir Patrick’s performance is outstanding, but it’s hardly the only great work of acting. Richard E. Grant co-stars as Scrooge’s hard-done-by employee Bob Cratchit, and there were great performances from lesser-known actors taking on the roles of the three spirits, the Cratchit family, and the people Scrooge encounters in his visions.

Scrooge walks the streets of London.

As an historical piece, A Christmas Carol nails the Victorian feel. It even succeeds at showing different periods of the 19th Century – when Scrooge is taken back to his past, the setting and costumes change to reflect the passage of time. Though things like set design and costuming can be subtle, if something isn’t right – especially in a film set in a distinct time period – it can really be offputting. This is one aspect that the film gets spot on.

Making Dickensian language understandable to contemporary audiences can be a challenge. Not quite so much as with Shakespeare or Chaucer, but many 19th Century texts can sound odd to our ears today. Though I’d argue 19th Century writing is often beautiful, when adapted for the screen in particular it can sound ostentatious and stilted. This adaptation of A Christmas Carol manages to avoid that – for the most part – and the dialogue works well, especially when you get stuck into it!

As humans we have an innate fear of death, and it’s from this fear that the first legends of ghosts and hauntings were created. The idea of spirits unable to leave this world nor enter the afterlife is frightening; a fate worse than death, you could say. And A Christmas Carol doesn’t shy away from the frightening side of the spirits who visit Scrooge. I’d even go so far as to say that there are several jump-scares in this adaptation. A great soundtrack accompanies these moments in particular, escalating the tension. It may not be the best version to watch if you have very young children.

Ghosts shown to Scrooge.

Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol at a time when folks in Britain were rediscovering many Christmas traditions that had fallen by the wayside. Though it’s not fair to credit the novel with saving or inventing Christmas, many of the traditions we associate with the holiday today are included in the novel – and in this adaptation.

So that’s it, really. I just wanted to highlight this great and underappreciated adaptation of Dickens’ novel as we’re now in the grip of the holiday season! It made my list last year of twelve things to watch during the festive season, but I wanted to expand a little on what I said and give A Christmas Carol its own moment in the spotlight!

As a big fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Sir Patrick Stewart, I was incredibly excited when I first heard of this adaptation. I wasn’t disappointed when I saw it for the first time around twenty years ago, and it’s become a permanent fixture on my holiday watchlist. I wouldn’t say I watch it without fail every Christmas season, but certainly most years I’ll fire up the DVD and spend an hour-and-a-half with this festive favourite. I highly recommend it, both to Trekkies and non-Trekkies alike.

A Christmas Carol (1999) is out now on DVD and may be streamed on Amazon Prime in the United Kingdom. Access to the film on streaming platforms may vary by location. A Christmas Carol may be the copyright of TNT and/or Sonar Entertainment, Inc. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

A festive playlist to get you in the holiday spirit!

Last year in the run-up to Christmas, I put together a list of films and television specials to enjoy over the holidays. If you missed it, you can find that list by clicking or tapping here. As part of the festive season this year, I thought it could be fun to listen to a few Christmas songs together.

I’ll hold up my hands right now and say I’m an unashamed collector of Christmas albums. Having initially started with cassettes and CDs, my collection is now digital, consisting of MP3s – I have yet to fully make the transition to music streaming! Practically every Christmas album I own has at least one track worth listening to, but many modern ones consists of the same handful of “traditional holiday favourites,” and artists, in an attempt to distinguish their version from the myriad others, have a tendency to over-sing some of these great Christmas tunes.

This playlist entirely consists of YouTube videos, and for copyright/legal reasons, I can’t be 100% certain that every track will be available in your country. I know in Germany, for example, there are stricter copyright requirements that often block music on YouTube. If any of the tracks are unavailable, don’t despair. I daresay you can find them on your streaming platform of choice.

Without further ado, let’s jump into the list!

Track 1:
Merry Xmas Everybody – Slade (1973)

In 1973, when British rock band Slade were at the height of their success, they released Merry Xmas Everybody. It would go on to be their best-remembered hit – as well as their final UK number one.

Though arguably eclipsed in recent years by Fairytale of New York (which we’ll look at in a moment) Slade’s Merry Xmas Everybody was, for a long time, the most-played and most-loved Christmas song in the UK, and still routinely appears on Christmas compilations and playlists.

Noddy Holder, Slade’s lead singer, has often told the story of how peculiar it was recording the music video in New York in the summer of 1973 – one of the hottest summers on record at the time. The fake snow and festive tone of the song completely clashed with the band’s surroundings, yet the simple video has become iconic – as has Holder’s semi-screamed line “it’s Christmas!”

Track 2:
Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End) – The Darkness (2003)

Seventeen years after Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End) missed out on the Christmas number one spot, I’m still mad! It was locked in a close race to the coveted spot at the top of the UK charts against, of all things, Mad World (from the Donnie Darko soundtrack). It was the first new Christmas-themed song that was any good that I’d heard in years, and I bought it on CD in the hopes of helping the band top the charts that Christmas.

The Darkness are otherwise known as a one-hit wonder for the 2003 song I Believe in a Thing Called Love and for winning several Brit awards the following year. Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End) seemed to have rapidly faded into obscurity after missing out in 2003; disappearing as quickly as The Darkness themselves. But recent years have seen the song receive a renewed appreciation at this time of year, and it now gets played regularly in December. It may have taken a while, but the song has become a modern-day Christmas favourite.

Track 3:
You Make It Feel Like Christmas – Gwen Stefani feat. Blake Shelton (2017)

I don’t follow the ins and outs of celebrity gossip, nor do I watch reality television. But even I couldn’t avoid hearing the drama that emerged from The Voice when it became public knowledge that judges Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton had become a couple. After a couple of years of dating, Shelton – better known for his career in country music – joined Stefani on the lead track from her Christmas album.

The result was a great song; a cute duet by a couple very much in love. It’s since become a feature on my festive playlist; a blend of country, rock, and pop stylings in a single, truly enjoyable up-tempo hit.

The song was released in the UK, but failed to chart. The best performance it managed worldwide (according to Wikipedia) was in Canada, reaching the number two spot in 2017. Regardless, it’s a great tune that should be on everyone’s festive playlist!

Track 4:
I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday – Wizzard (1973)

Slade’s Merry Xmas Everybody – that we looked at above – beat Wizzard to the Christmas number one spot in 1973; a great year for Christmas songs here in the UK, apparently! Roy Wood, formerly of the band Electric Light Orchestra, founded Wizzard in 1972. This song would be their only major hit, and has been replayed at Christmas in the UK ever since.

The song was re-recorded in 1981, after it was discovered the original master tapes had been lost. As a result there are two versions of the song out there, each featuring a different children’s choir accompanying Wood’s glam rock band.

As a kid this was one of my favourite Christmas tunes, and I have fond memories of getting the record out to play on my dad’s old turntable as we decorated the Christmas tree and as the big day approached. Perhaps my parents didn’t appreciate that – but I did!

Track 5:
Fairytale of New York – The Pogues feat. Kirsty MacColl (1987)

The song regularly called “Britain’s favourite Christmas song” could hardly be absent from this playlist! Fairytale of New York is an odd, bloody-minded choice for that title, as it tells the story of a dysfunctional couple having a truly awful Christmas in New York. However, something about the track resonated with a lot of people, and in 2020 it’s not unfair to call it The Pogues’ best-known song.

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year for many people, but as Fairytale of New York reminds us, that isn’t the case for everyone. The song touches on homelessness, domestic abuse, and brings home to everyone who hears it that the world isn’t just Christmas parties and waiting for Santa. Is that a grown-up take, or just being “edgy” for the sake of it? Whatever you may think, the haunting folk-rock melody is beautiful.

Track 6:
Once in Royal David’s City – Mary Chapin Carpenter (2008)

An understated, country-style version of this Christmas carol is oddly timeless. Mary Chapin Carpenter has released a number of great albums over the years, and is one of my favourite artists of the genre, so I was thrilled to learn she was releasing a Christmas album in 2008. However, the album itself was rather mediocre aside from this song and one other (The Longest Night of the Year).

A diamond in the rough, then. Once in Royal David’s City wasn’t released as a single, as indeed none of the songs from Come Darkness, Come Light were. It’s the standout track of the album for me, though, and the arrangement suits Carpenter’s vocals perfectly.

Track 7:
Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – The Baseballs (2012)

German rock n’ roll outfit The Baseballs rose to fame by releasing 50s-style covers of contemporary pop songs, and by 2012 were ready to put their unique spin on Christmas songs. Their entire Christmas album is well worth a listen, jam-packed with great covers. But if I had to pick just one, the one which works best with their style is Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.

I’d been a fan of The Baseballs since their first album in 2009, and had the good fortune to see them play live once. They’re one of the few bands I’ve seen that were just as good live as they are on record!

Track 8:
Merry Christmas Everyone – Shakin’ Stevens (1985)

1985’s Christmas number one has become a classic, a frequent presence on playlists and compilations at this time of year. Originally planned to be released for the 1984 Christmas season, having been recorded that year, Stevens and record label Epic opted to delay Merry Christmas Everyone by an entire year to avoid clashing with Do They Know It’s Christmas? – the charity single by Band Aid.

When it finally released, the Welsh singer took the charts by storm, and the song was no worse for having had to wait. I once sang this song at a karaoke night – after a little too much to drink! It’s probably fair to say Stevens’ original version is better, though!

Track 9:
Christmas Tree Farm – Taylor Swift (2019)

Having been a big Taylor Swift fan during her country days, I’d fallen out of love with the superstar after she made her move to pop. Her pop albums have been – in my opinion – rather bland and uninspired, so I wasn’t particularly interested in learning she was releasing a Christmas single last year. But I should’ve been! Christmas Tree Farm is touching and deeply personal – as much of her work is. It’s a great song, and when I booted up my Christmas playlist this year, I was glad to see it return.

The song recounts Swift’s early life growing up on a Christmas tree farm, and has a unique charm. Christmas is a time for nostalgia and remembering childhood, and that’s exactly what the track is about. Though one of her least-successful singles in terms of chart performance, I’m happy to have added Christmas Tree Farm to my festive playlist, and I’m sure to be listening to it at Christmas for many years to come.

Track 10:
The First Noel – John Denver (1990)

One of my favourite artists sings one of my favourite Christmas carols. What could be better than that? Taken from his third (and final) Christmas album, Denver’s take on The First Noel is beautiful.

The song wasn’t released as a single, simply as one track among thirteen on the album, but it’s one of my favourites from Christmas, Like a Lullaby. There have been some great covers of The First Noel over the years, but this version is understated, slow, and keeps it simple. Denver doesn’t overcomplicate the tune with excessive instrumentation or by trying to over-stress every note. It’s just a sweet version of a classic carol.

Track 11:
Little Town – Amy Grant (1983)

If John Denver’s The First Noel was an understated version of a classic, American contemporary Christian artist Amy Grant’s adaptation of the Christmas carol O Little Town of Bethlehem is the complete opposite! The carol is given a faster tempo, modern instruments, and a pop makeover, transforming it almost entirely into something new. Yet it retains the original lyrics in an odd blend of styles, but one that truly works.

This version of the classic carol was originally recorded by British singer Cliff Richard – more on him in a moment. His version is decent, but for my money Grant’s version just has something more that elevates it, and makes it a truly enjoyable listen. As someone who isn’t religious, I wouldn’t seek out a musician like Amy Grant at any other time of year. But Little Town has been a part of my Christmas playlist for decades, and I always enjoy it.

Track 12:
Mistletoe and Wine – Cliff Richard (1988)

Mistletoe and Wine gets an unfairly bad rap, in my opinion, as does Sir Cliff Richard himself. There’s nothing wrong with this orchestral-pop song, which Richard adapted for Christmas in 1988. It would go on to be the first of three consecutive Christmas number ones for the singer; he also topped the charts with Band Aid II in 1989, and again as a solo artist with Saviour’s Day in 1990.

It’s become popular in recent years for folks to look down their noses at Sir Cliff and his middle-of-the-road, inoffensive style of pop music. I don’t really know why, because he’s had some great records over the years. When it comes to Christmas, it would be remiss not to include Mistletoe and Wine – or any of his other Christmassy singles.

So that’s it. An eclectic mix, I’m sure you’ll agree. And neither a Wham! nor a Mariah Carey in sight! One of the things I enjoy most about this time of year is the music, and there are many more songs and albums I could have talked about here. This playlist was already growing long, though, so we’ll have to settle for twelve! Maybe next Christmas I’ll add a few more.

2020 has been a crap year, and it’s years like this where Christmas time matters all the more to a lot of folks. Take some time to unwind if you can. For me, listening to Christmas music – both lifelong favourites and brand-new classics – is a great way to do that. Hopefully some of these songs will be to your taste too.

There’s more Christmas-themed content to come before we get to the big day, so stay tuned!

All songs on the playlist above are the copyright of their respective record company, studio, distributor, composer, etc. All videos courtesy of YouTube. Videos are merely embedded here, and are not hosted on Trekking with Dennis. For copyright claims, please contact YouTube directly. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

A festive list to get you in the holiday spirit!

Spoiler Warning: There are some minor spoilers ahead for the titles on this list.

Tis the season to be jolly… and all that. There are some fun Christmas films and television specials, and with it being only four days till the big day, I thought I’d share a few of my favourites. I’m sure most will be familiar to you, but they’re all worth a watch at this time of year.

With all of the controversy around projects like Star Wars, it’s nice to kick back with an old favourite at this time of year. Some of the titles below are full-on guilty pleasures, the kind of film you’d never watch if it wasn’t Christmas-themed. But there’s nothing wrong with that every once in a while.

These titles are in no particular order, but it’s a list so I had to number them.

Number 1: Carols From King’s (Annual)

Title card for Carols From King’s.

I’m by no means a religious person. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I set foot in a church. But when I was at school, every Christmas just before the end of term we all trooped down to the local church and attended a Christmas carol service. My English teacher would pick on a few of us every year to read aloud some kind of Christmassy poem or short section from a story, so every year while at school I got to take part. The only benefit was that we got to miss a few lessons in the run-up to the event, but that alone made it worthwhile.

Carols From Kings is basically the kind of Christmas carol service I remember from my schooldays – just much better quality(!) There’s a choir, and they sing a selection of Christmas carols interspersed with a few readings and churchy things. While the selection of carols varies somewhat year on year, most of the traditional English carols make an appearance, such as Once In Royal David’s City, or The First Nowell.

As a fan of Christmas music in general, Carols From Kings is a pleasant, calm television programme of the sort that I’d never be interested in at any other time of year. At the end of the day, all it really is is a church choir singing Christmas carols – but that’s okay. Of course if you just wanted to hear the music you could find 1,001 versions of all of these carols on any music streaming platform, but seeing it and knowing it was recorded live does make it a different experience, and focuses attention on the music and the event itself rather than letting the songs be background noise for whatever else you might be doing.

There are new editions of Carols From King’s recorded every year (or most years, at least). Several past years, including 2018, are available on YouTube at time of writing, and I believe the 2019 edition is to be broadcast on Christmas Eve here in the UK.

Number 2: The Polar Express (2004)

Poster for The Polar Express.

This film was a novel take on the “does Santa Claus exist?” theme that a lot of Christmas titles explore. Following a young boy who finds it hard to believe in Santa, The Polar Express takes the unnamed child on a whirlwind adventure to the North Pole, complete with snow, ice, and a weird train roof-riding hobo.

Notable at the time of its release for its CGI animation – which some critics called “creepy” due to its attempts at realism – the film has aged well and has rightly become a modern-day Christmas classic, one which is fun to return to year upon year. I’d especially recommend it for families – though with the caveat that very young children may find a few scenes frightening.

Tom Hanks is on form here, voicing several characters and giving each a unique sound. You might recognise him in the persona of the train’s conductor, such is the nature of semi-realistic CGI animation, but some great voice acting ensures his other characters are unrecognisable.

Trains – especially toy steam engines – have somewhat of an association with Christmas, so The Polar Express doesn’t come from nowhere. However, its unique approach to Christmas, Santa Claus, and the North Pole, as well as some comical moments, make for a fun modern Christmas film with heart. The message is that Santa is real, and for little ones wavering on that issue it might be a reassurance. And though it’s primarily a fun adventure for kids, there’s some entertainment for grown-ups to have here as well.

Number 3: Father Christmas (1991)

The VHS and/or DVD box art for Father Christmas.

A semi-sequel to 1982’s The Snowman, Father Christmas sets out to answer a simple question: what does Santa do for the other 364 days of the year? Apparently the answer is that he takes a massive round-the-world holiday. And gets drunk.

As a kid, the scene where Father Christmas (as Santa is known in the UK) gets completely trashed and starts hallucinating/dreaming and throwing up was a really weird thing to witness. And that sequence may be why this animated short doesn’t seem to be readily available at the moment. It is, of course, online on various streaming sites – none of which I’d happily recommend, so take your own chances – but it is on DVD at least here in the UK.

Clocking in at only 25 minutes, it’s a bit steep to pay a lot of money for a copy, but it is a fun, wholly British, and entirely tongue-in-cheek look at Santa’s everyday life. For some reason he lives in a terraced house in the UK. And has a pet dog and cat. And his neighbours seem blissfully unaware of his true identity.

The animation style is, frankly, outdated. It’s very much a product of its time, with a particular hand-drawn style that may not be to everyone’s taste. And as mentioned, a few scenes may be offputting for sensitive young ones. But there is a bloomin’ great song (which you can almost certainly find on YouTube).

Number 4: The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

Could it be? A Star Wars film worse than The Phantom Menace?

I’m kidding – no one should watch this nonsense.

Thankfully non-canonical, the Star Wars Holiday Special takes classic characters from the original film and sets up the premise of Life Day – a celebration on Chewbacca’s home planet.

It has been rightly ridiculed for its bad script, bad effects, and for being an all-round failure.

It is, however, a wholly unique piece of television. Sometimes bad films make for entertaining viewing simply because of how bad they are, and if you have a few Star Wars-loving friends (and a healthy amount of alcohol or other substances) maybe this could be a fun romp for you.

And since this came out before Empire Strikes Back is is technically the first Star Wars sequel.

Still, it’s better than The Phantom Menace.

Real Number 4: Miracle on 34th Street (1947; 1994)

Box art for the 1947 original Miracle on 34th Street.

I actually had a hard time deciding which version of this Christmas classic to put on this list. The 1994 version is a rare example of a successful remake – thanks largely to the wonderful performance of the late Richard Attenborough.

I’m not a huge fan of black-and-white films in general. Not so much the lack of colour itself, but primarily because older films tend to be very dated in their effects, sets, and especially their acting style. I know that’s a horribly subjective statement, but as a very general rule I’d say most films (and TV series) prior to the mid-1960s don’t really work for me. The original Miracle on 34th Street was an exception, however. I actually saw the remake first, probably not long after it was released, and for years I wasn’t even aware there was an older version. When I did encounter it, I was initially put off by the black-and-white and the year it came out, but when I gave it a chance I found the same heartwarming tale underneath.

When a Thanksgiving parade needs a replacement Santa Claus, a man named Kris Kringle steps up – and claims to be the real deal. After being briefly institutionalised, a court case find that (for differing reasons in the two versions) they cannot prove he isn’t Santa – so therefore he can go free.

Actor Edmund Gwenn won both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for his role as Kris Kringle in the original film, and though his performance is in many ways iconic, Richard Attenborough took over the role for the 1994 version and also gave an incredible performance.

Number 5: Love Actually (2003)

Poster for Love Actually.

So here’s a conundrum – is Love Actually a Christmas film, or is it a romantic comedy with a Christmas background? I can’t decide.

Some films seem to pick a Christmas setting and hope it will cover all manner of sins. Not so for Love Actually, because while Christmas serves as a backdrop for the film and the various sets of characters, it’s actually (pun intended) rather good.

Taking multiple plot threads and a huge cast of characters, the completely different stories slowly work their way together over the course of the film. And there are some wonderful performances in there, as well as some funny ones. Hugh Grant’s take on the British Prime Minister came mere months after then-PM Tony Blair took Britain controversially into the Iraq War. And the scene in which Grant’s character stands up to a rude, pushy American President (a pitch-perfect performance from Billy-Bob Thornton) was, in a very real sense, something that large sections of the country were looking for and responded to.

Alan Rickman also gives one of his best performances here, and his on-screen chemistry with Emma Thompson is part of what gives the film its heart.

I didn’t expect Love Actually to become as culturally significant as it is when I first saw it. I dismissed it as “just another rom com”, having seen Hugh Grant in what felt like several dozen similar pictures by that point. But, helped by its Christmas setting no doubt, Love Actually is another modern classic which I think families will enjoy at this time of year for a long time to come.

Number 6: A Christmas Carol (1999)

The 1999 version of A Christmas Carol stars Patrick Stewart.

There are many adaptations of Charles Dickens’ famous novel – the book credited with bringing Christmas back into the popular imagination after a period in which it wasn’t widely celebrated. And many of those versions are good. Some are funny, some are animated, and some take great liberties with the source material. But if I had to pick just one adaptation, the 1999 made-for-TV version is my choice.

Starring Sir Patrick Stewart (hot off his role as Capt. Picard in Star Trek: Insurrection) this version of the story sticks fairly closely to the original novel. There’s nothing especially ground-breaking here, nothing that will change the way future adaptations are viewed. But as a pure adaptation of the novel, I don’t think the performances can be bettered.

Some of the effects, especially those for the ghosts, may look a little dated by now, but overall the film does a great job telling the classic story of bitter old miser Ebenezer Scrooge as he learns to embrace the spirit of Christmas. I’m a big fan of Sir Patrick (as you probably know by now if you’re a regular around here) but his performance here is a great example of why. He carries this film all the way, appearing in practically every scene, and if you can get over the fact that he’s not Jean-Luc Picard and simply enjoy the story being presented, you’re in for a treat because his performance is incredible.

Some actors are inexorably linked to their most iconic roles, and if you’re a huge Star Trek fan perhaps this version will be jarring for you. But stick with it if you can, because in my opinion this is the best adaptation of A Christmas Carol.

Number 7: Phineas and Ferb Christmas Vacation (2009)

Streaming icon for Phineas and Ferb Christmas Vacation.

You might remember from the list of my top television series of the decade, but I’m a big fan of this Disney Channel animated series.

Christmas Vacation is actually one of the best episodes as well, a feature-length episode in which the evil Dr Doofenshmirtz builds a machine to make everyone in town naughty – thus cancelling Christmas. The boys manage to save the day, of course, and there’s plenty of mayhem and fun along the way.

The soundtrack to this special episode is great, too, featuring a couple of Christmas classics and a few original songs – including a Christmas-themed version of the show’s opening song.

If you’re a sucker for the “Christmas is in danger, then someone saves it” plot cliché – and I absolutely am – then this will be a fun time. Yes it’s a kids’ show, but Phineas and Ferb has always been a series that holds some appeal to adults too, so it’s not without merit here. It’s by no means an original premise, but it is a uniquely Phineas and Ferb take on that premise, and as a fan of the series it’s great to come back to this special at this time of year.

The soundtrack album (which also includes a few tracks from a couple of other holiday episodes) is also well worth a listen. Yes, I bought it.

Number 8: Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)

DVD box art for Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Every family has different Christmas traditions, and these traditions vary an awful lot from country to country. It wasn’t until I spent a Christmas in the United States that I became aware of this charming stop-motion film, and I think from people I’ve spoken to that it doesn’t have as big of a following over here.

Despite first encountering Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer as an adult, I had a fun time with this film and enjoyed a look at another country’s idea of a Christmas classic. And a classic it certainly is – it was on TV dozens of times in the run-up to Christmas when I lived in the States, and almost everyone I spoke to reacted with incredulity when I said I’d never seen it.

It’s a re-telling of the Rudolph story with a few original characters that haven’t appeared elsewhere, like Yukon Cornelius, and Hermey the elf who wants to be a dentist. After facing rejection, the characters run away together, only to be welcomed back after their adventures in a heartwarming tale of… bullies that decide to stop bullying? I guess.

Number 9: Delia’s Classic Christmas (2009)

Delia’s Classic Christmas DVD box art.

I wanted to put at least one cookery programme on this list, because of all the various holidays and events throughout the year, none are so intrinsically linked to food as Christmas.

Delia Smith is the original British television cook, appearing on TV since at least the 1980s. Her 2009 outing – Delia’s Classic Christmas – is exactly what it sounds like. British Christmas classic dishes, presented in her trademark gentle style.

As a collection of classics, don’t expect much outside the mainstream of British cuisine. That’s actually what I like about this television special, because in many ways, Christmas is the one time of year where traditions dominate and it’s great to celebrate that. In this case, we’re talking about food traditions like roast turkey with all the trimmings. For my American readers, Turkey has been traditional Christmas fare in the UK for at least the last century. Though some families will still opt for ham or beef as their main meat of choice, turkey is still the king. And because we don’t have Thanksgiving, this is for most people their main turkey dinner of the season – possibly of the whole year.

But to get back to Delia’s Classic Christmas for a moment, Delia Smith’s style of presenting is just pleasant and enjoyable to watch. This is pure light entertainment at its festive best, and even if cookery shows wouldn’t normally be your thing, maybe you can make an exception at this time of year. It does wonders to get me excited for my Christmas dinner, anyway!

Number 10: Die Hard (1988)

Bruce Willis on the poster for Die Hard.

I debated whether or not to put Die Hard on this list. Is it a Christmas film? Or is it an action film with a couple of Christmas references? That argument will rage on and on, I fear.

Christmas film or not though, Die Hard is a classic of the action genre. While its sequels haven’t really lived up to the original, that doesn’t detract from the enjoyment here. Bruce Willis is on form as action hero John McClane – trapped in a building under siege and where terrorists have taken hostages (including his wife), McClane slowly cuts his way through the terrorist troupe.

Alan Rickman features on this list for the second time, in his iconic role as terrorist leader Hans Gruber. Though protagonist and antagonist only meet at the film’s climax, their radio communication earlier in the story is fantastic and the way Willis and Rickman portray their characters’ hatred for one another in this limited format is really something to witness.

Die Hard could’ve ended up like so many other action films of its day – a fun but mediocre gun-fest. But there’s something about the two leads, perhaps aided by the Christmas backdrop, that elevates the title to something better.

Number 11: Jingle All The Way (1996)

Poster or DVD box art for Jingle All The Way.

In the entry above for the Star Wars Holiday Special, I mentioned that sometimes a bad film can be entertaining. And make no mistake, Jingle All The Way is, by practically every conceivable measure, a bad film.

It’s on this list purely as a guilty pleasure, and were it not for its Christmas theme it would probably be long-forgotten. In Jingle All The Way, Arnold Schwarzenegger (future Governor of California) has to get his son a must-have Christmas toy… but they’re all sold out. What follows is a slapstick comedy in which Arnie fights with another kid’s dad to find the last one on Christmas Eve.

It really is as bad as it sounds – Arnie’s acting has always been wooden at best, and this is certainly not his best performance by a long way. The premise is dumb, and the comedy is really quite stupid in parts, but what’s hiding just below the surface is a story worth telling – one of a family man recognising his flaws and trying to redeem himself in the eyes of his son. Christmas is both the setting and the driving force for the main story, but the idea of a family coming back together from the brink of falling apart is a timeless one in many ways, and one that epitomises Christmas.

Number 12: Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire (1989)

Several main characters from The Simpsons.

Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire is actually the first ever episode of the long-running animated sitcom. And it is a classic in its own right, as Homer tries to turn his financial troubles into a successful family Christmas.

Much of what makes The Simpsons great is on display here. At the end of the day, the series has been so successful and lasted so long because it has heart. There are plenty of funny moments, but despite his failings, it’s easy to root for Homer. He’s a likeable protagonist in this episode.

Arguably this isn’t The Simpsons at its best, because the show probably took at least to the end of the first season to really hit its stride, but despite that, and despite the fact that many of what would become the show’s principal supporting cast aren’t present, it’s a solid episode.

And as a Christmas story, it’s oddly timeless. The down-on-his-luck dad, trying to hide his finances from his family and then having to get into deeper and deeper trouble to cover it up, all while trying to provide them with Christmas gifts is, in an unfortunate way, still as relevant today as it was thirty years ago. While life has changed in many ways since The Simpsons premiered, there are still too many people who don’t have enough money at this time of year – or indeed all through the year. That sense of a real-world situation comes through, despite the fact that we’re looking at a cartoon, and I think that’s what makes it so relatable.

Honourable Mentions:

I couldn’t possibly cover every Christmas film or television special on this list. There are far too many, and there are some real classics that I’ve probably forgotten all about. Here are a few more that could’ve made this list, and are definitely worth a look.

Santa Claws (2014) – Not to be confused with the 1996 horror film of the same name, this family adventure sees a litter of kittens save the day and deliver Santa’s presents – after he has an allergic reaction to them.
The Snowman (1982) – The predecessor to the 1991 film Father Christmas listed above, this animated short sees a boy and his magical snowman go on an adventure.
Home Alone (1990) – A holiday classic. When a young boy is left behind by his family, he has to cope on his own while fending off burglars who want to rob his mansion.
It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) – After losing his firm’s money, a desperate man contemplates taking his own life and wishes he was never born. His guardian angel shows him the effect his life has had on others.
The Flight Before Christmas (2008) – A reindeer who’s afraid of flying saves the day in this cute animated film.
Elf (2003) – A human raised by Santa’s elves at the North Pole travels back to the human world in this lighthearted comedy.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) – Is it a Halloween film or a Christmas film? Either way, this stop-motion film directed by Tim Burton has become a classic.
The Morecambe and Wise Show Christmas Specials (1968-83) – For well over a decade in the late 1960s, ’70s, and into the ’80s, these variety shows by a comedy duo were the most-watched thing on British television on Christmas Day.
The Nativity Story (2006) – Future Star Wars actor Oscar Isaac features as Jesus’ father Joseph in this re-telling of the Biblical story.

So that’s it.

A few Christmas specials and films to get us all in the holiday mood now that we’re on the home stretch. Only four days left and then it’ll all be over for another year!

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas!

All titles mentioned above are the copyright of their respective studios, networks, and/or distributors. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.