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 seventh pairing 🙂
THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS and RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE
For those who struggle with the holiday season, sometime a little bit of darkness to help offset the deulge of Christmas cheer can be a welcome addition to the seasaonal fare. Rare Exports is bound to do the trick, with it’s Nordic setting and revisionist take on some of the darker edges of Scandinavian lore blending together a perfect of mix of drama, horror and action. It’s a dark fantasy film at it’s core that takes its mythology seriously. The film explores what it means to revive old traditions, with a studied attention to the ways in which buried history (and there is history represented here) so easily gets coopted by commercialism and capitalist pursuit. If unpredictable and potentially unhinged elves in the form of old, naked Finnish men isn’t enough to unsettle ones senses, the potential for human corruption on display certainly is. The notable absence of women makes this male dominated landscape that much more resonant as a modern commentary. It’s not wonder Scandinavian traditions don’t shy away from scaring little children into the magic of the season. If you haven’t encountered some of these traditions, they are actually quite wonderful and beautifully practiced and cherished in their cultural context.
Perhaps then, there is no greater symbol of this tension between the dark and the light than the infamous and classic animated tale, The Nightmare Before Christmas. Here we find a bridge between two (in North America) notable celebrations- Halloween and Christmas. Or the Day of the Dead in Mexican Tradition and this fusion of Winter Solstice and St. Nicholas traditions that formed into the quintessential American festival of gift giving, feasts and joy. As these two seasons are able to look at each other and mutually wish one another a Merrry Christmas and a Happy Halloween, we are offered a hope filled picture of the dark and the light co-existing together. In many ways, Halloween Town and Christmas Town need one another in order to make sense of a hard, complicated but also beautiful world. And even if we are someone who calls one place home, the chance to visit and explore this new city once a year can help broaden our perspective, helping us to remember that the darkness and the light are not seperate entities, but in fact the diverse expression of the human experience working in harmony.