And so the first doors have been opened, the fairy lights hung, the tree bedecked and the stockpiling begun. And yet. More than a little world-weary, longing for distant friends, for distant lands, sick, tired, grieving, this year the arrival of December seems to require a mustering of joy rather than the usual leap. We desperately NEED to celebrate BUT oh, what a lot of energy.
Enter: Celebrations, Rituals of Peace and Prayer by Maya Angelou. As calm, confident and luminous as the woman who wrote them, the poems collected within are a true antidote to seasonal lethargy. Little beacons of straight-talking light.
It being Christmas, start with Amazing Peace, the exhortation to hope first read by the poet at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C. in December 2005. Find a spur 'To dare to love deeply / And risk everything / For the good thing' in Continue, written for Oprah Winfrey as she turned fifty. Remember your mum via Mother: A Cradle to Hold Me. To love and be loved in all its pain and glory. Let your heart be stirred once more with A Brave and Startling Truth. 2021 is coming and we can look forward.
CHRISTMAS IN THE NINETIES
The future beckons but what would the yuletide be without a healthy does of nostalgia? And what better than a nestling into the nineties?
Drive home for Christmas with Meg Ryan as she merrily chimes in with the radio's relentless festive playlists - 'horses horses horses' – before becoming enamoured with Tom Hanks on a late-night call in show. As ridiculous as the premise might be, Annie and Sam (Ryan and Hanks) shine as a couple who are just 'MFEO'* while the locations, dialogue and impeccable character casting (Rita Wilson, Bill Pullman, Rosie O'Donnell) don't fall short of Nora Ephron's usual magic.
(*Made For Each Other)
Revel in the envy and glee of your childhood self as you watch Kevin McAllister live the dream of being Home Alone and nailing it. Equal parts cosy and slapstick, for every bit of ham there's an utterly heart-warming moment. And the soundtrack … pure festive alchemy. Roll right on to Home Alone 2, where you'll get a note for note rerun PLUS New York and room service.
Really gorge on Christmas with the 1994 remake of Miracle on 34th Street. While not one you could probably face watching over and over (it tips too often into the twee), sometimes it doesn't hurt to get riled up over something as important as a belief in magic. And Richard Attenborough as Kris Kringle takes the Santa Claus cake.
Need a touch of something (much) less sweet? Head in the other direction with Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut. Beginning with a lavish festive soiree, ending at New York's most famous toy store, a Christmas tree in practically every scene; while this psychological thriller is unsettling, dark, and more than a little steamy, it's an unorthodox Christmas classic.
A SEASONAL PLAYLIST
Christmas Star, John Williams.
Must Be Santa, Bob Dylan.
Christmas Time is Here, Vince Guaraldi Trio.
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, Bill Evans.
Sleigh Ride/Jingle Bells Medley, Roy Rogers/Dale Evans.
River, Joni Mitchell.
You Go To My Head, Lio.
My Favorite Things (Live), John Coltrane.
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, Bruce Springsteen.
What Christmas Means To Me, Stevie Wonder.
I'm Gonna Be Warm This Winter, Connie Francis
Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight)
Joy To The World (Live), Mariah Carey.