Since we are isolated and stuck inside during this Christmas season, I decided this year I was going to put together a list of of my favorite Christmas stories. The angle I took in putting this together is Christmas “pairings”, be it in book form or film. These are stories that seem to me to have a connection in spirit and focus, and which have inspired me over the years.
I have come up with 15 pairings of films/books in total, and my plan is to present those films one a day along with a brief reflection on why these stories resonated for me, how I see them fitting together, and what I think they can say to us in a more difficult Christmas season.
Here is my sixth pairing 🙂
A REINDEER’S JOURNEY (2018) and THE SNOWMAN (1982)
I can remember the Christmas when I got a set of cross country skiis for Christmas. Having never tried it before, I made my way to Birds Hill to take them for a test run. I was familiar with the park and its paths of course, but I had never travelled those paths in the winter. This new means of mobility provided me with a different vantage point through which to take in the untouched winter landscape that greeted me as the fresh snow covered the once lush forest. I felt a fresh awareness of Christmas as a season of new beginnings, the start of a grand story in the liturgical sense, ready to unfold with the dark days of a long winter promising the eventual light of the spring that lie ahead.
What accompanies the memory of this Christmas as well is the fact that this stood on the precipice of two big changes in my life- losing my beloved dog and being the last one of my siblings to move out of my parents home. Two massive changes in my life that would beckon a change of season and a new beginning.
The wonderful nature doc, A Reindeer’s Journey (also titled Ailo’s Journey), might not seem like your traditional Christmas classic, but what struck me watching it this year is the way it is able to capture a life lived within the seasons. Set in the luscious landscape of snowy Lapland, located in the Arctic Circle of Scandinavia stretching from Norway all the way into Russia, it follows a Reindeer newly birthed as it navigates it’s first year of life in the isolated terrain. It’s a beautiful reminder not just of of the magic to be found in the natural landscape, but of the way in which life moves through the seasons, with each new season reflecting a kind of rebirth of sorts. It’s also a reminder that in every season of loss, struggle and uncertainty comes the promise of new beginnings, a reminder that in the darkness there is light.
To pair this with the stunning animated short, The Snowman, is to be reminded in a year filled with the shared struggle of the pandemic that Christmas, for all it’s magic and allure, doesn’t mean the absence of struggle. It simply means that darkness and struggle can gain a context, a larger narrative through which to be understood. The context of a life lived in season. As it follows this young boy and this new found friendship with a snowman who magically comes to life, the short unfolds in two parts, the first part welcoming this snowman into his home, the second part following as this snowman lifts this young boy to the heights as they fly to his home. And in the process the boy is able to gain a new vantage point, a fresh perspective of the world and the magic of the season- hope in the darkness. It’s a transcendent story that arrives filled with a stark reminder of the seasons of life, but one filled with that necessary context. And as I came to the startling ending of The Snowman’s grand journey, I can see The Reindeer’s Journey just beginning.