Be warned: You’re sure to be singing the songs from this movie for many Christmases to come! (“It’s in the singing of a street corner choir…”)
Where to watch: Streaming on Disney+, or available for rent from Prime Video, iTunes, Google Play, and others
3. A Charlie Brown Christmas
Commissioned by the Coca Cola Company, most of the people involved in creating the Peanuts Christmas special — the first TV adaptation of Charles M. Schulz’s smash-hit comic strip — thought it would be a total failure. Instead, they created a classic. Vince Guaraldi’s music alone is enough to make this worth an annual rewatch.
The special’s use of humor to lampoon the “commercialization” of the holidays serves as a great reminder to all of us to step back from the nonessential elements of the Christmas season and to focus on what truly matters: Christ’s birth.
Even in the 1960s, public displays of religion on network television were rare. But the Nativity story, recited in all its glory by the cerebral Linus, is the crux of the special and fills the melancholic Charlie Brown with a radiant — and infectious — joy.
Where to watch: Streaming on Apple TV (for free Dec. 22 through Dec. 25 only)
4. White Christmas
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A true Christmas family classic, “White Christmas” is about as old-school cinema as you can get, if you’re into that kind of thing. The musical numbers are witty and memorable, the dance routines are impressive, and the nostalgia factor — well, that’s off the charts. Featuring the dulcet tones of Bing Crosby and the hilarious Danny Kaye, the movie follows the pair — old war buddies turned entertainers — as they fall in love with a pair of singing sisters and follow them to a Pine Tree, Vermont, inn for the holidays. There they plan and execute a special Christmas event as a surprise to offer love and support to their former commanding officer, who now owns the floundering inn.
“White Christmas” may not be spiritually deep, but it has many positive themes throughout. Kids may not understand all the intricacies of the plot, but they’ll enjoy the Technicolor and the dancing.
Where to watch: Streaming on Netflix, or available for rent from Prime Video, iTunes, and others
5. The Sound of Music
This may seem like an unconventional choice, but hear me out. This timeless classic, packed with some of the best and most singable songs in all of cinema, takes place in summer, that’s true, and there’s no mention of Christmas. But it’s packed with joy and positive themes — including familial love, obedience, and resistance to evil. Plus, I’m certainly not the first person to point out that lyrics like “snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes” and “brown paper packages tied up with string” can’t help but conjure images of Christmas.