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How the World Celebrates Christmas: Big-screen Christmas tales you can watch over and over

Toni Hetherington, December 4, 2019 10:00PM Kids News

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Jim Carrey stars in the movie the Grinch that Stole Christmas. media_cameraJim Carrey stars in the movie the Grinch that Stole Christmas.


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What makes a good Christmas movie? One that makes you laugh and settle in to holiday mode? Or one that makes you think about how people treat each other in the world and how a small act of kindness during the festive season can make a positive difference in our lives?

Whatever your inspiration*, Christmas movies have been popular for about 100 years. We take a look at some of the best for children.

Miracle on 34th Street
Most movie reviewers and list makers rate this 1947 movie as the most popular and best Christmas movie of all time.

media_cameraA scene from Miracle of 34th Street (1947).

It stars a mother and daughter who have no time for fantasies — until they meet Kris Kringle. Kris agrees to step in and dress up as a department store Santa. There is something special about Kris, who claims to be the real Santa, but can he win over this non-believing mum and daughter?

Actor Edmund Gwenn won an Academy Award* for his role as Santa in this wonderful movie with its overall theme that belief can lead to joy.

IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE media_cameraJames Stewart (left) plays George Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life.

It’s a Wonderful Life
If you are feeling down, play this movie and you’ll definitely feel better.

This 1946 masterpiece* focuses on banker George Bailey (played by actor James Stewart) who is feeling down after many things go wrong in his life. Through the help of a Christmas Angel, George discovers what life would be like for his family and community if he were no longer living and it helps him realise he has actually had a wonderful life after all.

We challenge you not to cry.

media_cameraAlastair Sim starring as Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.

A Christmas Carol
The ultimate Christmas story penned in 1843 by author Charles Dickens, has been remade many, many times. But it’s this 1951 movie you really want to watch. Discover through the cruel and greedy actions of Scrooge why money cannot buy your happiness. Alastair Sim’s amazing performance as Scrooge sets the benchmark* and no one has yet come close to bettering it.

actor Jim Carrey as Dr Seuss's character The Grinch in a scene from 2000 film 'How The Grinch Stole Christmas', with Cindy Lou media_cameraActor Jim Carrey as Dr Seuss’s character The Grinch in a scene from 2000 film How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

How the Grinch stole Christmas
Based on the much-loved Dr Seuss children’s book How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Jim Carrey is magnificent in the title role of the Grinch.

The Grinch is the only living creature near the happy hamlet* of Whoville who hates the Festival of Santa with a passion. The wonderful narration* (quoting directly from the book) comes from celebrated actor Anthony Hopkins.

Book cover. The Little Drummer Boy by Bruce Whatley. media_cameraA book cover of the story The Little Drummer Boy.

The Little Drummer Boy
 This 1968 film is a beautiful, touching interpretation* of the classic carol. Complete with parrup-a-pum-pums supplied by the Vienna Boys Choir. Though the stop-motion animation used to bring this tale to life is far from modern, it more than gets the job done. Has never been available on home streaming, but you can find a great copy on YouTube.

Home Alone 1, 2 and 3
Actor Macauley Culkin’s scream in this 1990 Christmas movie became world-famous and despite being almost 30 years old, this comedy caper* is still the gift that keeps on giving*.

Actor Macaulay Culkin in scene from film "Home Alone".  /Films/Titles/Home/Alone media_cameraActor Macaulay Culkin in scene from film Home Alone.

Kevin, 8, has to spend Christmas defending his home from robbers after he’s accidentally left home alone. How he does it is funny, clever and proves that the little guys can win.

All the Home Alone movies are inventive adventure-comedies that stand up really well to repeat viewings.

2002. Tim Allen in film Santa Clause 2 media_cameraTim Allen performing as Santa in The Santa Clause.

The Santa Clause
A perfect family fun film, Tim Allen’s 1994 performance in The Santa Clause does the job. Allen’s character has to fill some big boots when he steps in for Santa on Christmas Eve following an accident. It was a box office hit and two sequels were made.

Scene from animated film "The Polar Express".  /Films/Titles/Polar/Express media_cameraScene from the animated film The Polar Express.

The Polar Express
The thrilling Polar Express starts off a little scarily, but this 2004 animated railway adventure really picks up when the train arrives at Santa’s home.

A young boy boards a train and begins an extraordinary journey to the North Pole to meet Santa Claus. His life takes an unusual turn after he meets special people that make his journey memorable.

We challenge anyone not to tear up when they finally hear that sleigh bell jingle.

media_cameraWill Ferrell keeps us laughing in Elf.

This movie teaches us that Christmas cheer is important and people who may not seem important to us at first may have a lot to offer.

Buddy (played by Will Ferrell) is a man who was raised as an elf after accidentally crawling into Santa’s sack when he was a baby. Now 30, he realises he is human and travels to New York to find his birth father. After being sent away by his dad, Buddy explores the city, makes new friends and finds himself in a little trouble, too. But can Buddy help save Christmas with his new friends and family?


  • inspiration: being mentally stimulated to do or feel something creative
  • Academy Award: top movie award
  • benchmark: a level at which things can be compared
  • hamlet: a small village
  • narration: the telling of a story out loud
  • interpretation: explanation
  • caper: a funny, silly movie about crime
  • gift that keeps on giving: lasts for more than one day or use


Part 4: History of Christmas carols

Part 6: How to have a sustainable Christmas


  1. Who is Kris Kringle?
  2. Where does the Grinch live?
  3. Who sings in The Little Drummer boy?
  4. When was Home Alone 1 made?
  5. Which movie listed here includes a Christmas Angel?


Refer to the accompanying ‘How the world celebrates Christmas’ classroom workbook with 50 activities. It can be purchased for just $5 including GST at

HAVE YOUR SAY: What is your favourite Christmas movie? How many times have you watched it?
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