I haven’t done a post of this nature before, but this year I have been very much in the mood for Christmas-related things, activities, videos and posts (especially given how stressful this year has been given the still-ongoing global…health situation). In this post, I would like to suggest a number of (i) books, (ii) films, (iii) animations, (iv) music and (v) ambience videos to boost everyone’s Christmas spirit and hopefully make the holidays even cosier/happier! I am limiting myself to three recommendations for each of the categories.
- Books: (i) Hercule Poirot’s Christmas  by Agatha Christie – I love reading mysteries come Christmas time because of the atmosphere of cosiness. This book by the Queen of Crime is a wonderful one to get anyone into the festive spirit since the events in the book take place over a Christmas Eve; (ii) A Surprise for Christmas: And Other Seasonal Mysteries (British Library Crime Classics)  – I have not read this one yet, but am planning to do so very soon and have heard very good things about it. The book contains stories by Julian Symons, G. K. Chesterton, Carter Dickson, Martin Edwards and others, and they all revolve around Christmas time: “A Postman murdered while delivering cards on Christmas morning“, “A Christmas pine growing over a forgotten homicide”, etc.; (iii) The Night Before Christmas  by Nikolai Gogol. This classic tale is about the adventures of Vakula, the blacksmith, as he battles the devil. The devil stole the moon above the village of Dikanka, and the blacksmith and the devil compete for the heart of the same beautiful young girl.
- Films: (i) It’s A Wonderful Life  – this is a perfect Christmas film with A Christmas Carol theme. It stars James Stewart in the lead role, and few people know that the origin of the story is a 21-page Christmas card which Philip Van Doren Stern sent to his family and friends for Christmas of 1943 as he could not find a publisher for his short story; (ii) Little Women  – this is my favourite Little Women adaptation and it has amazing Christmas scenes. The cast is great too: Susan Sarandon, Gabriel Byrne, Winona Ryder, Christian Bale, Kirsten Dunst, Samantha Mathis and Claire Danes; (iii) Murder on the Orient Express  – in this story, the freezing conditions outside the train heighten the cosiness inside, as Hercule Poirot tries to identify the murderer before the journey’s end. It stars Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Anthony Perkins, Sean Connery and Vanessa Redgrave, among others.
- Animations: (i) Anastasia  – this is a delightful animation with plenty of snow! Voiced by Meg Ryan and John Cusack, it tells the myth of Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia who is rumoured to have escaped the execution of her family. The historical events and characters depicted should not be taken seriously as there is very little factual information in the story, but the music numbers are very impressive (especially Once Upon a December and Journey to the Past); (ii) Balto  – based on a true story of dogs that helped save children infected with diphtheria in the famous 1925 serum run to Nome, Balto is a wonderful and moving winter animation voiced by Kevin Bacon, Bridget Fonda and Phil Collins. One of the highlights from my New York trip of 2018 was the statue to Balto and other dogs involved in the run; (iii) A Christmas Carol  – this adaptation of Dickens’ novella is a good one and has voices of Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman and Colin Firth. The film is best enjoyed in a 3D format. The first two animations I recommend (Anastasia and Balto) are, in fact, “non-Disney” animations and they are as good as, if not better, than most of what came out of the Disney company over the years.
- Music: (i) The Nutcracker Suite Full Album by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, a quintessential Christmas/New Year music; (ii) Bing Crosby, a collection of Christmas songs; (iii) Harry Potter Christmas/Winter Music (there is nothing like a Christmas at Hogwarts, right? Hogwarts covered in snow, Hagrid’s cutting the tallest tree and Professor Flitwick’s enchanting Christmas tree decorations).
- Ambience Videos: (i) Cosy Feast Ambience by Autumn Cozy (this video just screams “Christmas!” to me, and I love the medieval interior, as well as the sounds of whipped cream, fireplace and candles. The attention to detail in the video is also great); (ii) Saint Nick’s Study by Autumn Cozy (this is a study of St Nicholas. I love the sounds of the howling wind, the snowstorm and the scribblings on the paper, as well as the music box occasionally producing a Christmas tune); (iii) Edwardian Library/Study by Ambience of Yesteryear – I love this ambience video because of the prominent fireplace and the detailed library presented. The snow falling outside the window gives the sense of almost magical atmosphere.